folk dance

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Term denoting any kind of dance which has been developed within a traditional community, rather than being created by a choreographer or teacher. Steps and patterns are passed on from one generation to another, gradually undergoing change. Many folk dances have their origins in ritual—fertility, marriage, religious, or war—and express the character of the community who dance them. The term was coined in the 18th century to distinguish ‘peasant’ dance forms from those of the upper classes, but the distinction itself dates back to the 15th century when ballroom dances first began to emerge as separate forms. In the past folk dances have exerted a strong influence on social and theatre dance, particularly during the Romantic period when they were considered to add both local and expressive colour. They have also influenced the styles of some 20th- and 21st-century choreographers such as Ek, Kylián, and Morris who was himself a performer with a Balkan folk dance troupe in the US. However, with urbanization and demographic change many of the original dances have been lost, even though many Western countries, during the 20th century, attempted to re-discover and preserve these dances, often through specialist troupes of folk dancers. Even where they have survived, however, they are mostly staged as theatre or as tourist attractions rather than being performed as genuine community events.

Subjects: Dance.

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