By Leaps and Bounds: How Dance Has Changed from Art to Sport in 20th Century America
Barney, Kassia Bevin
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With so many young people training in dance schools across the country, this topic has relevance and meaning to many and, as such, is important to discuss. In this paper I will attempt to trace the changes which occurred within the world of dance which led to this competitive atmosphere. I will do this by comparing the two most popular factions within the dance world: the world of ballet and the world dominated by "studio system" schools. First, I will present a brief history of dance in the United States. This section will primarily focus on the role dance played in Western European influenced American society during the formative years of our country. This will be followed by an examination of the different ways dance has been taught in American society over the years. In this section, I will discuss the birth of both the Dance Masters of America and American ballet and how these powerful institutions have affected the way in which our society perceives dance. Afterwards, I will discuss how dance has become a more competitive activity over the years and my belief that changing methods of teaching have precipitated this ideology. This portion of the paper will examine the influence of such competitive events as the Varna International Ballet Competition and the Prix de Lausanne as well as such cultural phenomena as "dance marathons," the Universal Dance Association, and the television show "Dance Fever." Finally, I will discuss the important questions of whether competitive dance events are good for dance and dance students and why they are currently so popular. In short, this examination will help develop an understanding of the widespread cultural appeal of competitive dance, and its artistic merit-or lack thereof.