Structural analysis of traditional dance

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Structural analysis of traditional dance enables comparative studies of theories of dance evolution and an understanding of the features which enable the dance to be distinguished and categorised by dancers and observers.

There are often recognisably similar choreographic features found in the dances widely distributed across several countries, possibly with a variant of a choreographic feature particular to a smaller sub-region. A dance may exhibit more than one recognisable choreographic feature, possibly from the adoption of a new dance or format into the existing local repertoire.

The recognisable choreographic feature can be a selection of small aspects of dance choreology, with most of the other aspect of dance not being relevant. For these reason, I believe the recognisable choreographic features are best determined from experience and not from a thorough scientific analysis of the correlation of the many observable features of dances.


these may be termed "steps" and "style"

these may be termed "choreographic form"

structure title element cell motif phrase section & stanza part form
symbol α a a A [1    ] [I     ] dance name
definition movements undertaken on single impulse movements undertaken on a few impulses that form a component a grouping of elements, cells, and other motifs that is aesthetically complete combination of motifs that can identify the dance intermediate structural level of repeated motifs & phrases structural unit of repeated phrases and sections

constituent units may be introductory, core and final in the construction

whole dance text, may have a fixed form with a defined start and end, or continue repeats with no predetermined end
recognition by performers "steps" that include the kinetics of the motion which is generally termed as "style" by the non-ethnic dance teacher "building blocks" recognisable and used for quick learning of new dances by non-ethnic dancers this is generally the lowest unit that ethnic dancers structurally divide the movements into "figures" built using repetition with options of changes in direction and mirroring the footwork the dance by name

Based on the terminology developed by the ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music)


© Eliznik2006, First issue Aug-06, Last updated Aug-06