The function of contemporary dance

by Emily Holdsworth

What is the function of contemporary dance?

Comments for The function of contemporary dance

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Sep 05, 2011
Answer from Maria
by: Maria

Dear Emily,

Over the years and in diverse cultural contexts, dance has accomplished different functions for human beings.

For example, history tells us that in ancient times, dance had a ritual function. It was the way in which humans communicated with their gods.

In the early European renaissance, dance had a social function. Courtiers would meet and build relationships through the custom of attending to balls in the palaces.

Afterward, dancing became so common and important for that cultural context, that it reached the status of a political tool. It was used by kings and queens as a mean of expressing and maintaining power.

Still, in the era of monarchies, dance would also accomplish an ornamental function, when 'ballets' were more like theatrical pieces or operas. Dance was an underdeveloped art beside them, so for arts, dance had the only function of decorating other main forms of expression.

In time, dance evolved and was recognized by artists and society as an autonomous art. Since then, you could say that its main function has been the aesthetical one (which is the one of modern art in a general way). This means that dance provides humanity with a sensible experience, which can at the same time bring about any of the already mentioned uses.

Human beings and society are nowadays complex and so are our ways of understanding them. I believe that the current function of contemporary dance can be any of the functions that dance has accomplished throughout history. That is off course, according to the specific cultural and/or geographical contexts in which it happens.

I hope this answers your question. Don't hesitate to come back to express your opinion or doubts (if you have them) or to participate at in any other way!

Warm regards,


Mar 16, 2017
how does Contempory danceimpact society
by: Maria

how does Contemporary dance impact society
Can someone answer the question please and its roots

Mar 16, 2017
Maria's reply
by: Maria

Dear Maria,

You are asking a very wide question, which could be answered in many different ways. However, I’ll give you a possible short answer:

As explained in my first comment of this chat, dance accomplishes different functions for humanity, so in general terms it is a tool. It can be used for alternative ways of communication, sociocultural interaction and/or transformation. The way it impacts society is through its events, which are focused on human movement as its main language.

For information about the roots of contemporary dance, you can read the following page:

Contemporary Dance History

We also have an e-book about contemporary-dance history:

The handy e-book of Contemporary Dance History

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