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While analytic philosophers of aesthetics might want to know what the “work” of dance as art is, for example, this may not be a question of relevance to the continental, pragmatic or process philosopher (and even less relevant to the dance studies scholar).
Similarly, accounts of dance that focus heavily on the lived experience of dance as art for both the performer and the audience that answers to the truth of that experience for dance practitioners may be of interest to pragmatists and phenomenological philosophers but may not be accepted as relevant by some analytic philosophers.
These two concepts of the art of dance—dance as a powerful impulse and dance as a skillfully choreographed art practiced largely by a professional few—are the two most important connecting ideas running through any consideration of the subject.
In dance, the connection between the two concepts is stronger than in some other arts, and neither can exist without the other.
Although the above broad definition covers all forms of the art, philosophers and critics throughout history have suggested different definitions of dance that have amounted to little more than descriptions of the kind of dance with which each writer was most familiar.
Thus, that dance is rhythmic movement whose purpose is “to represent men’s characters as well as what they do and suffer” refers to the central role that dance played in classical Greek theatre, where the chorus through its movements reenacted the themes of the drama during lyric interludes.
(For an anthropological and semiotic approach to dance see Hanna 1987.
John Martin, the 20th-century dance critic, almost ignored the formal aspect of dance in emphasizing its role as a physical expression of inner emotion. lies the common impulse to resort to movement to externalise states which we cannot externalise by rational means.Dance, the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.Dance is a powerful impulse, but the art of dance is that impulse channeled by skillful performers into something that becomes intensely expressive and that may delight spectators who feel no wish to dance themselves.Related to this is the idea that works of art (including dances conceived of as artworks) are created by transforming something from ordinary life or experience into an artistic symbol that exists and that is to be appreciated and experienced at a remove from “ordinary” life.(For additional literature providing reasons for dance’s underrepresentation in aesthetics, see Carter 2005, Sparshott 1988 and Van Camp 1981.) Opposed to Sparshott’s view of the history of dance philosophy is Julie Van Camp, a philosopher who agrees that dance is underrepresented in philosophical aesthetics but who denies that it is has been quite as underrepresented as Sparshott claims.
In doing so, he betrayed his own sympathy toward the Expressionist school of modern American dance: “At the root of all these varied manifestations of dancing . This is basic dance.”A truly universal definition of dance must, therefore, return to the fundamental principle that dance is an art form or activity that utilizes the body and the range of movement of which the body is capable.