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Dance

An unofficial A-to-Z of dance

23 dance styles from Asyik to Zat Pwe. How many are you familiar with?

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Published: 10 Nov 2016


Time taken : ~10mins

Get ready to break out in dance

Esplanade's annual da:ns festival brings you more riveting works by international and local artists as well as activities and dance sessions for you to participate in.

We count down to the season with a little throwback to the different styles and techniques featured at Esplanade over the years—as well as introduce you to some new ones. The list goes on, but here’s our unofficial A-to-Z of dance. How many are you familiar with?

A

Asyik

Named after a bird that the 17th century Queen of Kelantan lost, asyik means “the beloved or intoxicated”. It is a seated dance form depicting court maidens dressed in beautiful costumes, mimicking the gestures of a bird. Because it lost its court patronage, it is rarely performed in its original form today.

 

B

Bharatanatyam

One of the oldest classical dance forms of India, the bharatanatyam that we see today is a refined version of sadir natyam, a centuries-old solo dance that fell out of favour during the British rule when it was deemed crude and vulgar. Bharatanatyam places emphasis on graceful feminine lines and facial expressions called abhinaya. It is associated with the fire element.

C

Chhau

Originating in the eastern states of India, chhau is a dance drama that emerged from a fusion of Hindu dances, martial arts and ancient tribal traditions. There are several regional variations of this form, some of which use stylised masks that depict mythological heroes and animals from Indian epics such as the Ramayana and Mohabharat.

D

Dikir Barat

Although dikir barat is essentially a style of Malay choral singing that combines call-and-response with freestyle rhyming, there is much upper-body group choreography involved that makes it exciting to watch. According to historical sources, it is based on a dance called tarian patung inai, which was very popular in Siam and Kelantan from the early 1800s to mid-1900s.

E

East Coast Swing

A triple-step swing dance also called jitterbug that is typically danced to jump blues or to country swing songs.

F

Flamenco

Characterised by hand-clapping, percussive footwork and intricate body, hand and arm movements, flamenco is a highly expressive and passionate Spanish dance form closely linked to the gitano (gypsy) culture of the region.

G

Gaga

A dance movement and pedagogy developed by acclaimed Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, gaga is said to be a new way of “learning and strengthening one’s body”. An improvisational practice based around of a series of images described by the teacher, the dance itself conjures a sense of playfulness.

H

Hip hop

A genre of dance that encompasses a broad range of styles including popping, waacking, breakdancing etc.

I

Irish step dance

Steeped in centuries of traditional Irish music, this folk dance combines enthralling Celtic rhythms with energy and grace. It is distinguished by its quick and precise percussive steps, balletic movements and the dancer’s stiff upper body posture.

 

J

Joget

One of the most popular folk dances in Indonesia and Malaysia, performed by couples during cultural festivals, weddings and other social functions.

K

Kizomba

Steeped in centuries of traditional Irish music, this folk dance combines enthralling Celtic rhythms with energy and grace. It is distinguished by its quick and precise percussive steps, balletic movements and the dancer’s stiff upper body posture.

L

Lakhaon Kaol

One of the most popular folk dances in Indonesia and Malaysia, performed by couples during cultural festivals, weddings and other social functions.

M

Manipuri

An ancient graceful ritual performance, nora is a complex dance drama performed mostly in Southern Thailand and Northern Malaysia. The origins of nora are steeped in legend and prominent around the Songkhla Lake where it has thrived for centuries.

N

Nora

An ancient graceful ritual performance, nora is a complex dance drama performed mostly in Southern Thailand and Northern Malaysia. The origins of nora are steeped in legend and prominent around the Songkhla Lake where it has thrived for centuries.

O

Odissi

One of the eight classical dance forms of India, odissi originated from the state of Odisha. This dance is characterised by various bhangas (stances), which involves the stamping of the foot and the striking of various postures, as seen on Indian sculptures.

P

Popping

One of the original styles of the Californian west coast funk movement of the ’70s, popping utilises quick muscle contraction techniques to blend into various poses.

R

Reggae

Reggae is an African-Caribbean style of music that developed in Jamaica in the 1960s, made popular by Bob Marley. It has since evolved as a genre that now includes dance.

S

Saman

Also called the “dance of a thousand hands”, saman typically features 8–20 men performing a series of seamless rhythmic claps, chest-slapping, as well as other percussive movements (against the floor and parts of the body). This Indonesian art form is traditionally performed in celebration of national and religious holidays.

T

Tanztheater

A performance genre first conceived in the 1910s by dance theorist Rudolf von Laban which focuses on the capturing human experiences and expressions through dance, speech, singing and chanting, conventional theatre and the use of props, set, and costumes. The genre was developed and popularised by the late choreographic legend, Pina Bausch.

V

Ves

Many Sri Lankan dance forms can be traced back to the Kohomba Kankariya, an elaborate ritualistic dance originally performed by Indian shamans. In the ves dance, also known as “devil dance”, performers don spiritual masks and elaborate costumes, and are accompanied by drumming and a chanting. It was performed only within the premises of certain temples up until the 19th century before it became a cultural dance.

W

Waacking

Created in the clubs of Los Angeles during the ’70s disco movement, waacking employs the use of the upper body and arms. The "waack" comes from a strong swinging or sweeping of the arms in flamboyant, rapid gestures.

Y

Yakshagana

Yakshagana is a traditional dance drama of Karnataka, usually performed in open-air theatres at night in paddy fields. Part-dance part-theatre, a yakshagana performance requires much endurance from its performers and audience because it typically lasts from dusk till dawn.

Z

Zat Pwe

One of Myanmar’s most enduring and exceptionally energetic storytelling mediums, zat pwe (meaning narrative performance) is a traditional form that combines music, dance and theatre, typically performed at night. Historically in the Burmese court, puppetry was the only medium that could be used to enact Buddhist tales. Zat pwe dancers impersonate the marionettes, retaining the aesthetic in the choreography.


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