Dance has been called the universal language.
It thrives within cultures around the world as part of ceremonial, physical and spiritual expression — or even just for enjoyment and fun. It has even been used as a form of sacrifice and as a form of worship.
But how did dancing come to be?
After viewing the mating ritual of a bird of paradise, it is difficult not to call the male birds intrinsic movements a dance. Thus the debate as to whether or not the ability to dance is unique to humans or rooted into our shared evolutionary development with the animal kingdom is ongoing.
It is believed through the vocal hypothesis that the ability to move to a beat is limited to only vocally oriented species, or species that are vocal learners including parrots, songbirds, dolphins, whales and sea lions. But the hypothesis was challenged after concluding that dancing is a by-product of imitation as many people can tap their foot to a beat naturally and without imitation.
In humans though, dancing has always gone hand-in-hand with music.
The origins of ancient dances have been found in 9000 year-old India ad 5300 year-old Egypt. Even before the arrival of language, the earliest human cultures evolved utilizing oral and physical performance to pass stories and knowledge from one generation to the next. Celebratory and ritual dances are believed by historians to be two of the essential factors in the advancement of the earliest human civilizations.
Dancing itself cannot be defined by a single or simple form of movement. Dancing is fluid and can constantly evolve and change depending on the innovation of the dancer. The overall skills involved in dance include moving in time to a rhythm or beat and synchronizing movements with another individual.
Music and dancing evolved together as one, just as the slow Wasase became the fast Smoke Dance.
And with powwow season in full swing it will be easy to witness dancers dancing dances that were danced by the bodies of ancestors. Their movements will either imitate or innovate their chosen styles and their regalia will reflect upon the craftsmanship of their families or people.
They will be continuing a tradition that has been carried by many before them — viewing their triumph in the heat of summer will be equal to watching history be made.