Dance as an art form

Question: dance as an art form?

In the newly endorsed Australian Arts curriculum (see last post) dance as an art form will be taught and learnt in Australian schools. But what does dance as an art form mean?

Dance is one of five art forms in the Australian Arts Curriculum. The other four art forms are drama, media arts, music and visual arts.

Dance as an art form is dance that is choreographed and performed with the intention of creating meaning for an audience. The ‘creator’, that is the choreographer, the dancer, and/or the designer, has an intention which is revealed in the resolution of a dance work, and communication of meaning through that work.

We tend to go around in circles when trying to explain dance as an art form, as opposed to dance for other purposes. For example, what does the word ‘meaning’ mean, in relation to a dance work? We will deal with that conundrum in another post, perhaps. It is easier to make suggestions about WHAT IS NOT dance as an art form.

dance as an art form vs dance as social/physical activity

Dance can be a valuable social and physical activity, contributing to mental and physical health and wellbeing. But dancing purely for social or sporting purposes is not dance as an art form. In my book, the following types of dance do not fit the definition of dance as an art form:

  • aerobic dance and cheerleading
  • fad dance e.g. gangnam style, harlem shake
  • social and ballroom dancing
  • folk and ritual dance.

I’m not trying to be deliberately provocative with this list. But I am saying that these dance forms or categories do not fulfil the brief of a work, specifically designed to communicate meaning. When people dance, or create ‘dances’ in these forms they do so for a different purpose. Admittedly, some aspects of ballroom and folk dance are in the grey area. And there is definitely ‘art’ in folk dancing and competitive ballroom dance. Perhaps ‘craft’ is a better term to apply to these forms because they lack the artistic intention that innovates on, or pushes the boundaries of the form.

However, the movement content of these forms and styles can be used for artistic intentions. The key to deciding whether to use these styles in dance teaching is more about how you teach using that content.

We will talk further about choosing content in relation to teaching dance as an art form in future posts.