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Different Types of Folk Dances

Jul 22, 2008
The common events of the daily life are subjects for many dances. "Gossiping Ella" is a pungent little drama. "Bounding Heart" suggests in its title the glad, wild form of the dance. "The Drake" is a story which all country people would know. "The Gardener" is a very humorous bit, for the slipping of one line under the other is the telling part of the dance. "The Dumpy One" explains itself even among sophisticated people. "Gustaf's Skol" is a dance which would be found among people w^ho are subject to a monarch.

There is a beautiful myth connected with the "Vintage Dance." The Spirit of Vegetation which has watched over and cared for the fruit during all the time of its growth, fled before the eager harvesters as they picked the grapes. It was finally caught in the last of the fruit plucked from the vines.

When the harvest was nearly over, all the people might be seen running about searching for yet another bunch of grapes. Finally, with great rejoicing and shoviting, they carried down from the hillside the Fruit Spirit embodied in the last of the harvest. Placing this favored bunch in their midst, they danced out the story of the first awakening of the Spirit in the spring with the turning and tilling of the soil, and the recovery of the life of the summer amid the fruit of the vines.

With the greatest joy they dance, now that the harvest is over. The wine from this fruit is sacredly cherished until the following spring, when it is poured on the groimd to renew the life of the land.

The occupation dances which we find among all peoples are instances of the citing of the familiar experiences of life. When all the people gather on the village green in the evening, all the shoemaker, the butcher, the wheelwright, all each, as he dances, expresses in pantomime some action or incident of his day's history.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the various guilds had public processionals and dances which were given on stated occasions. Bohme says of one of these celebrations, "The knife-makers had a sword dance, the coopers had their hoop dance, and the clothmakers a flag dance." Remnants of these dances still exist among the folk.

The ballads that have come down to us, the legends of Dietrich and of Siegfried, were all originally choral dances, sung either by the circling chorus, or by solo and chorus. The refrain of the ballad still shows the choral structure. "Sigurdsvaket" illustrates the manner in which the legend of Siegfried is told in the Faroe Islands.

Fragments of many of the old dramas have been handed down in the games of children. Some of these are portions of the ritual of the summer and winter ceremonies, others were originally dramatic representations of the myths and legends. "Sleeping Beauty" is a primitive drama of the spring myth. The old German bridge game and "London Bridge" have a very ancient mythological foundation. There are many games which are remnants of courting and marriage customs. Several, like "Three Dukes A- Riding," suggest marriage by capture.

The ritual of tree worship, belief in witches, the dread power of the werewolf, funeral rites and village customs, which were a part of the sacrificial ceremonies to the various spirits and powers, are some of the suggested origins of the games which have been preserved.

"Fox and Geese" is an interesting type of the early dramatic form where musical expression, action and spoken dialogue are all found together.

Three forms stand out prominently in the early dance-dramas all the processional, the ronde and the line dance. Types of the first still linger in the solemn church processional to the sacrificial altar, in funeral and wedding processionals, in the battle marches and in the stately Polonaise.

The ronde was the common form for the expression of ceremonial moods and stories. When any event produced either a sad or a joyous mood, we find that the people danced together; the particular significance of the ronde was the sympathetic unity of the players. The mood or story which they represented was one of communal interest and origin. The leader of this chorus became the bard of a later time.

The line dance was used to express some degree of contest. It might be a love dance representing the pursuit and capture of the maiden; or the Morris dances telling the struggle between summer and winter ; or the form might be a ballad, chanted and danced by two advancing and retreating choruses. Here the contest was represented by means of question and answer. In many of the old folk dramas we find these three forms all the processional becomes a ronde or love dance according to the ideas expressed by the dancing throng.

We have thought walking, running, skipping, hopping, leaping and whirling such common everyday occvuTences in the child's happy life, that we have failed to observe how the child-like mind constantly expresses various states and degrees of feeling and thought through these movements. They are as much a part of gesture language as the movements of the hands and arms, and in the early dances were much more prominent.
About the Author
Malcolm Blake has researched and written about dance and different forms of entertainment. To see more of his writing, visit his article about psp free downloads .
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