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Rebecca Smith
Edwin Austin
Dance 261
9 December 2015
Dance is Who I Am
Dance is a word commonly used and an activity that is commonly viewed and
participated in. What exactly is dance, though? There are several general definitions of what
dance is, but the deeper meaning of dance varies from person to person. My personal philosophy
of dance is mostly shaped by my experiences as a dancer, articles and quotes I have read, from
watching dance performances, and from what I have learned in this Orientation to Dance class.
Dance is a form of self-expression and a way of discovering ideas about the world.
The definition of dance is subjective. Individuals create their own ideas of what they
believe dance is, which often do a much better job of describing dance than vague dictionary
definitions. Urban Dictionary is a website where people can post their own definitions to words,
and while some of these definitions are completely silly and unreliable, I particularly agree this
one, posted by someone known on this website only as LeonWolftail: Dance is an artistic sport
that combines music and movement to tell a story or show an emotion. The music gives the
power to connect the movement to something within the dancer.
I do not agree that movements must be done to music to be considered dance. Instead, it
is a supplemental tool dancers can (and almost always do) use to better express an idea
(LeonWolftail). However, I want to stress the word artistic, where the basic definition of art,
in my opinion, is something that involves creativity. Creativity sets dance apart from other, more
mundane sets of movements. Can absentmindedly tapping ones foot to music be considered
dance? I think not. Tapping ones foot to the beat of music is not dance because while it does fall

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under the dictionary definition of dance (To move the body and feet in rhythm to music), there
is no creativity behind such a mundane movement (Dance).
The definition of dance I most agree with is one written by Richard Kraus, Brenda Dixon,
and Sarah Chapman Hilsendager. Specifically, I like the second half: Dance is commonly
performed to musical or other rhythmic accompaniment, and has as a primary purpose the
expression of inner feelings and emotions, although it is often performed for social, ritual,
entertainment, or other purposes. This definition more accurately describes what dance is.
Dance differs from other sets of movements because it is artistic and serves specific purposes,
which are to convey some sort of idea or provide entertainment.
My personal definition of dance is this: dance is a series of body movements created and
executed for the primary purpose of self-expression or personal enjoyment.
What, then, makes someone a dancer? Nowhere in the definition of dance--neither my
own, nor the dictionarys--does it say that one must have formal training to be a dancer
(Dance). It annoys me a little to hear someone say that they cannot dance. Dancing is just a
series of movements, so if one can move their bodies at all, one can dance. Besides, dancing does
not necessarily have to please an audience, so it does not matter if one is good at it or not. In
his talk titled Creativity, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that, While true creativity is something
that can be shared by those who appreciate the works of creation, true creativity does not depend
entirely for its satisfactions upon consumers. Dance is labelled as a performing art, and
performers are deemed successful if their audiences like their performance, so it makes sense
why people have come to believe that in order to be a dancer, one must be skilled enough that
their audience wants to watch them. Actually, skill is not necessary. Anyone who dances, whether
it be on a stage or alone in the living room, whether they have had training or not, is a dancer.
From the extensive discussions in my Orientation to Dance class about what makes a
certain instance of dancing a fine art or a folk art, I have concluded that dance in general is

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primarily a folk art, or for the benefit of the performer (Bond 62). The most basic intent behind
dancing is to express an idea or an emotion, or for recreational purposes. Most, if not all, forms
of dance began with these purposes (The History of Dance). Ballet is a good example of a
form of dance that was created to express an idea, because it reveals facts the culture in which it
was created. In this case, the culture is Renaissance Europe, where people valued perfection,
restraint, and order (Bond 64). Polka began for recreational reasons. Historians believe a peasant
girl created the style to entertain herself one day (The History of Dance). Several dance styles
eventually moved to the stage, but even when dance is performed as a fine art, I highly doubt that
any dancer is performing solely for the audience. A dancers reason for performing for an
audience obviously varies, but I would expect that the underlying reason is because they enjoy it,
and they get personal satisfaction from it.
Dance is an expression of the dancer as an individual, whether the dancer means it to be
or not. The movements themselves are affected by who the dancer is as a person. I once read
about a study where researchers had volunteers take a personality test and then dance to different
genres of music (Sheaghdha). In general dancers who were outgoing and full of energy danced
with large, exaggerated movements (Sheaghdha). Introverts danced with as little movement as
possible, with sharp jerks and shuffling movements, revealing how uncomfortable they feel
about dancing in a crowd (Sheaghdha). People who were profiled as polite and agreeable created
smooth movements and were careful to avoid running into the other dancers (Sheaghdha). The
author of this article said in her concluding paragraph, dance is a form of communication and
self-expression, so it makes sense that a person will reveal elements of their personality in the
way they move (Sheaghdha).
The style of dance one chooses to do is also an expression of the dancers personality. I
have a preference for ballet because I like order and perfection and I prefer to have a set of rules
or guidelines to follow, which ballet certainly provides. Modern and contemporary dance are

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more experimental and the movements are freer, and these genres feel unnatural to me for the
same reason. On the other hand, my sister is more carefree and outgoing, so she prefers jazz and
hip hop, where there are fewer rules to restrict her. The genre of dance a dancer prefers to do is a
hint as to who they are as a person.
Therefore, dance is an expression of every aspect of a persons being. The dancer as an
individual is always present. Their personality seeps into their dancing, no matter what. Dance is
a reflection of an individuals self as a whole, and also of temporary roles, feelings, and ideas
that are present at the moment they are dancing. Of all art forms, dance is perhaps the best form
of self-expression because it uses the artists body as an instrument of expression in addition to
the mind--the artists entire being.
A dancer can incorporate (intentionally or otherwise) the elements of movement
described in the study mentioned above to reflect a certain personality or get an idea across,
much like playing a game of charades. Dance is a way of becoming whatever you want to be,
even if just for a moment. To me, that is the most precious truth about dance. A dancer can take
on any role he or she wants--a role that is simultaneously created and portrayed through
movement. If I wanted to be a butterfly, I would dance using movements that I think best
describes what a butterfly is. Dance is not the simply imitation, though. It goes beyond imitation.
Dance is a way of transforming yourself into a certain thing. There have been studies done that
say that sitting forward in your seat actually does make you more attentive, and that acting
confident really can make you feel more confident (Brinol 1059). Dance does the same sort of
thing. By twirling softly like a falling snowflake, or hurriedly whipping from one position to the
next like a busy student running from class to class, a dancer figuratively become that snowflake,
student, or whatever role they chose to take on.
This makes dance is a learning experience, both for the performer and, if applicable, the
audience (Maxwell). A dancer can explore the world by becoming something else. They can

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discover what it could be like to be royalty, a bird, or even a boulder or a drop of rain by
attempting to move in a way that best represents what is is they want to know something about.
They then give that newfound knowledge to the audience. Whether dance really is a learning
experience or not depends on the attitude of the performer or audience. One has to have the
desire to learn from dance.
I hope that the dance world can learn from me. As an LDS dancer, I have standards that I
will live by. I want to become a good example for other dancers I interact with. I want the
audience to enjoy dance by creating something beautiful that brings a good atmosphere. By
doing so, I hope I can become a source of inspiration for those who see me dance. Elder M.
Russell Ballard encourages artists to Lift, inspire, change hearts, make people better than they
might have been by sharing their talent with the rest of the world.
My personal philosophy of dance consists of three ideas. First, dance is a way of
expressing ones entire self, because it uses the body to reveal what is in the mind. Movements
reflect ones inner thoughts, emotions, and personality, and also convey a meaning or story.
Dance can also express the ideas and values of an entire culture, not just of one individual.
Second, dance is a way of becoming something else for a time. Dance allows a person to take on
characteristics of an object or person, so a dancer can become anything for a moment. Third,
dance is a way of learning about the world. In summary, dance is a form of self-expression and a
method of exploration.

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Works Cited
Ballard, M. Russell. "The Lord's Purpose for the Artist in the Gospel Plan." BYU.edu. Brigham
Young University, 8 Apr. 1995. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
Bond, Chrystelle Trump. An Aesthetic Framework for Dance. Journal of Physical Education,
Recreation and Dance (1987): 62-66. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
Brinol, Pablo, Richard E. Petty, and Benjamin Wagner. Body Posture Effects on SelfEvaluation: A Self-Validation Approach. European Journal of Social Psychology 39
(2009): 1053-64. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
Dance. Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Cambridge University Press, 2015. Web. 25 Nov.
2015.
The History of Dance. Centralhome.com. Centralhome.com Company, Inc., 2015. Web. 9 Dec.
2015.
Kraus, Richard, Sarah Chapman Hilsendager, and Brenda Dixon. History of the Dance in Art
and Education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1991. BYU.edu. Web. 8 Dec.
2015.
LeonWolftail. Dance. Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary, 13 July 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Maxwell, Neal A. Creativity. New Era. Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Aug. 1982. Web. 30 Nov.
2015.
Sheaghdha, Orla Ni. The Psychology of Dance: Personality Through Body Movements.
OrlaNiSheaghdha.com. n.p., 21 Dec. 2010. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.