FYS-144 Why Do People Dance

Instructor: Associate Professor Marta Robertson
Department: Sunderman Cons. of Music

Course Description:
Students will explore how movement reflects its surrounding cultural context. Think for a moment about the differences between African-American step dancing, European classical ballet, and a Gettysburg lacrosse game. Yet try explaining these differences to somebody and you may find yourself at a loss for words. For example, when is dance a sport and likewise sport a dance? Because different cultures value diverse structural elements in movement, it is necessary to consider in depth the question "What is dance?" and to create a vocabulary to discuss it. A second question - "Why do people dance?" - unifies this course. Case studies of dancing from many global traditions - historically, culturally, and geographically - suggest that people dance for various reasons, including to express national, political, local, gender, or sexual identities, religious beliefs, or for just plain fun. Among the course objectives is for you to gain an appreciation of the many global expressions of dance through reading, writing, and physical movement. Don't be surprised if you analyze Madonna's "Vogue" through comparisons to dance in Louis XIV's court, belly dance, hip hop, and team sports.