Facts About Dance - Did you know?

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Are dancers athletes?

Yes. Dancers are elite athletes as well as artists. They follow a rigorous training
regime and must stay in top condition, just like professional athletes
such as basketball or hockey players. Dancers have extraordinary
flexibility, muscular strength and both physical and mental endurance.
Professional dancers train and practice every day for an average of six
hours. Many also cross-train with cardio, weight lifting, yoga and/or
Pilates to improve their physical fitness and technique.

Who invented pointe shoes?

Though "toe dancing" was popular in London as early as the 1820s, it is believed that the first ballet dancer to dance en pointe with modified shoes was Marie Taglioni in the ballet La Sylphide  in 1832. The first pointe shoes were little more than soft slippers,
heavily darned at the toes. Today, pointe shoes are made of multiple
layers of burlap, paper and glue. The hardened glue gives pointe shoes
their stiffness.

How long can dancers continue performing?

While some dancers continue to perform into their 50s or longer - such as
Peggy Baker, Trisha Brown and Alicia Markova - most dancers stop
performing by their mid-30s because of the physical demands on their
bodies. Many dancers continue to work in the field as choreographers,
dance teachers, coaches or artistic directors. Others move into
administrative positions, becoming managing directors and presenters
for example. Some former dancers go back to school to train in a second
career. Many have gone on to become successful in fields such as
medicine, commercial art, computer engineering and education.

Is capoeira a dance form or a martial art?

Both. Capoeira is a martial art that blends dance, music, singing and
acrobatics. While some people argue that it originated in Africa,
others claim that capoeira developed three to four hundred years ago in
Brazil. Slaves were not allowed to practice any form of combat or
defense, so they eliminated direct contact between opponents and made
their movements look more like dancing. As a result, modern
capoeiristas jump, flip, turn and lunge to try to catch their partners
off guard.

Why do classical Indian dancers wear bells around their ankles?

In bharata natyam, kathak and odissi - different regional forms of
classical Indian dance - dancers wear heavy anklets of multiple bells
called gungru or ghungroo . Ghungroo highlight and emphasize the rhythms of the dancer's feet. Dancers can wear up to 200 bells - 100 on each ankle.

When and where did break dancing start?

Break dancing originated in the Bronx area of New York City in the early
1970s. It began in African-American street gangs. Dancers - known as
b-boys (short for beat) - competed with each other, inventing new moves
and trying to out-perform one another. Break dancing made a comeback in
the late 1990s, becoming popular all over the world.

Why do contemporary dancers dance in bare feet?

Modern (contemporary) dance values a weighted use of the body in relation to the earth - as opposed to ballet, which is more concerned with resisting gravity.
Dancing in bare feet enables the dancer to connect directly with the
floor. After dancing in bare feet for a long time, generally the soles
of a dancer's feet adjust and toughen. Some modern dancers put tape on
their toes and the balls of their feet to make it easier to turn and

Can someone dance if he or she has a disability?

Yes. Men and women with a disability around the world actively participate
in both amateur and professional dance. Professional modern dance
companies, such as Axis Dance Company in California and CandoCo in the
United Kingdom, choreograph for mixed-ability ensembles of disabled and
non-disabled dancers. More and more dance studios are also offering
dance classes for people of all abilities.

How many tap dancers does it take...

...to break a world record? On May 24th, 1998, the greatest ever number of
tap dancers gathered for a single routine at the Stuttgart City Square
in Germany. Choreographed by Ray Lynch, the 6,952 dancers tapped away
for 2 minutes and 15 seconds. The event was organized to commemorate
the birthday of American tap-dance legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In
second place, as many as 6,000 tap dancers gather in New York City each
year for Tap-o-Mania. They hoof their way down Broadway as part of
Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade.

Dancing 'til you drop

During the Depression, dance marathons were popular as a means to forget about
daily troubles and to compete for cash prizes. Marathoners danced for
hours and days at a time, usually resting only 15 minutes for every
hour of dancing. Americans Mike Ritof and Edith Boudreaux hold the
world record. From August 29th, 1930, to April 1st, 1931, they danced
for 5,154 hours and 48 minutes - that's 214 days. They won $2,000 at
the Merry Garden Ballroom Dance Marathon in Chicago, Illinois. Due to
potential health risks, Depression-era dance marathons were eventually

Why do people say "break a leg" before a dancer goes on stage?

The dance world is full of superstitions. By saying "break a leg" before a
show, people are saying the exact opposite of what they hope will
happen on stage. Some dancers have very precise routines for doing
their hair or make-up. Others wear certain clothes before a show or
keep lucky charms in their dressing rooms or backstage. Before the
curtain goes up, some dancers link pinky fingers or step onto the stage
with the wrong foot so that when their cue comes, they start the show
on the right foot.

What happens at a Pow Wow?

A Pow Wow is a gathering of aboriginal nations for a celebration of singing, drumming
and dancing. Various dances are performed at a Pow Wow and each has its
own significance, specific dress and regalia. The most popular dances
for women are the Jingle Dress, Fancy Shawl, Traditional and Hoop
Dances. The most popular dances for men are the Traditional, Grass and
Ribbon or Fancy Dances. The dancing arena is circular and is called an
arbor. Pow Wows can also be opportunities for dance competitions. At a
competition, Pow Wow dancers are divided into categories based on age,
gender and dance style.

Is the Green Room really green?

Sometimes, but not always. The Green Room is a quiet, comfortable room backstage
where performers can rest and relax before, after and between shows.
It's also the place where the performers receive their families and
friends. No one knows exactly why it's called a Green Room, but it has
been part of the theatre tradition for centuries. Some people believe
it is a reference to the days when theatre was performed outside in the
open air "on the green". Another alternative to saying "Good luck"
before a show is to say "See you on the green", which is a reference to
getting through the show and to the Green Room without incident.

Why aren't there more men and boys in dance?

Many people say that this is because western culture traditionally views
dance, and especially ballet, as primarily "feminine" pursuits. Some
parents discourage their sons from taking dance classes even when they
show potential and aptitude. Yet some of the world's great dancers have
been and are men. Male dancers, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, are
admired for their strength, grace, agility and musicality, as well as
their masculinity. No one would say that being the only boy in a dance
class is easy, but following one's passion, regardless of what other
people say or think, is important in developing a rich and satisfying

Can performing really be addictive?

Yes and no. In the medical sense, dancing and performing are definitely not
addictive, but many dancers report getting a "rush" from being on
stage. While dancing, the body releases endorphins, which are chemicals
in the brain that are responsible for positive moods. Endorphins also
act like natural painkillers, so even after hours of gruelling
rehearsal, dancers don't necessarily feel their aching muscles and
joints when they're on stage. Once they start dancing, many people find
it hard to quit because the enjoyment factor is so compelling. It's
hard to find something else to take its place since few other
activities make them feel so connected and alive.

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