Dance at Court • Over time, dance has played an important role among the ruling classes of many societies, for example: • Asante Kingdom of Ghana (West Africa) • Japanese Imperial Court (Bugaku) • Javanese Court of the Sultan (Bedoyo)
The Five Purposes of Court Dance • To display power • To confer privilege or status • To demonstrate and practice refinement • To preserve culture • To enhance culture through patronage
DISPLAY OF POWER • Court dances of Java, Ghana, and Japan--just as in the time of Louis XIV, and not unlike contemporary military parades--serve as a symbol of societal order, might, wealth, and authority. • Spiritual and human leadership qualities may be emphasized as in the Bedoyo, Bugaku and Asante.
Conferring Privilege • The exclusive nature of court dances demonstrates and reinforces hierarchy in the system. • For example, in the court of Louis XIV, one’s status in court was shown when, where, with whom one danced. A missed step or “faux pas” reduced the dancer’s status in court. • Contrary to Versailles, in Asante, the lesser chiefs dance first: the hierarchy progresses from lowliest to highest.
Exemplifies Refinement • The dance models correct behavior or etiquette by embodying movement that is considered elegant, serene, beautiful, noble and, in the case of the Asante, expressive of dwo (inner or spiritual coolness). • Many court dances are extremely difficult and must be learned from a dance master. European dance manuals provided guidance for social etiquette and execution of dance steps. • Create a dance manual (include dances and appropriate behavior) for your choice of current-day dance situations.
Preserves Culture • Court dances both reaffirm cultural identity and serve as a “keeper of tradition” within the very performance of the dance. • For example, the Japanese Imperial Court ‘s Bugaku is the world’s oldest recorded, continuously performed dance. • Court dances often tell stories—legends, myths, religious stories, accounts of war—that are intrinsic to the culture of the society.
Enhances Culture through Patronage • Finally court dances enhance culture through royal patronage, as exemplified in court-commissioned ballets and in modern-day choreography and dance performances sponsored by “official” agency of a city, state or national government.
Current Contexts of Court Dance • Prior to the 19th century: most of the world’s peoples were the subjects of kings, queens, emperors, sultans, chiefs. Today variations of the court dance archetype live on: showing that both traditional and modern societies have demonstrated a need for ceremonial displays of power: for example, half-time shows, military parades, beauty pageants, ballet, homecoming parades, high school proms. • consider the “correct” behavior and type of dancing in contemporary “court” situations with which you are familiar.
Assignment due Monday (2 pages TYPED DOUBLE SPACED) • Identify a contemporary danced “court” with which you have familiarity and explain to someone with NO familiarity with the form—you want them to be able to both understand and PASS in the context you describe. • Name each of the five purposes of court dance and write a short statement about your form directly following each purpose. SPEND MOST EFFORT ON PURPOSE 3: CREATE A DANCE MANUAL THAT DESCRIBES STEPS, APPROPRIATE DRESS, AND BEHAVIOR (consider gender factors).