Stories From Dance!

Throughout history stories have been told in many ways: books, poems, songs movies and dancing. These methods change, adapt, and develop new audiences or participants, but the message stays the same. Dance has been used for hundereds of years to narrate an experience. Busting a move is more than a way to get the ladies. It tells a story, expresses emotion, and can even be used practically. Every step, clap or twist means something, and without this vital form of expression our world would be a darker place.


Not only has dance been used throughout the years to tell a story, but it has been used in a multitude of ways. From entertainment, to dancing for rain, every form has a meaning. There are practical purposes that develop. Sometimes old stories are intertwined, new movements are added, or personal meaning takes hold, but whatever the case, every dance tells a story.

Examples of Dance


The tango, a dance of passion, displays the love, hurt, and obsession of romance in every step and twirl. The couple must rely on each other for support. This shows a bond stronger than words could.


Ballet, often thought to be the most formal and rigorous form of dance, it can show every emotion from glee to jealousy to grief. The graceful arching leaps and structured forms ensnare the observer and communicate with him on a deeper level.

Take for instance the Haka. Originally a Maori Tribal dance performed before battle, it has been adapted by the New Zealand All Black rugby team as an intimidation technique. The fierce movements and violent gestures represent the passion of the "battle" to come, and are meant to show strength. The dance was meant to call to the gods of war for help, and to psychologically motivate the warrior. I wouldn't want to fight them after that.


The waltz shows commitment and trust, the balance and depth of understanding is shown in every matching step. The pair must trust and know each other completely, and you can see this through the movement.


Jazz displays modern movement and song. The strong leaps and jumps show a feminist, proud story. The women take the lead, and their intensity shows their power.


Clearly dance tells many different stories. Another example is the canoe step which is considered one of the most graceful Hay-lush-ka Indian Dances. It is interesting to note that in order to become a Hay-lush-ka you have to master the traditional dances; one of which is the canoe step. It represents the motions of paddling a canoe in an interpretive way demonstrating that the canoe is an essential part of life. Their whole society is based on sign language instead of spoken language The Hay-lush-ka Indians tell their stories through movements, obviously dance is very important. The canoe dance is the honey of their tribe.


River Dance shows a culture and community in a way that stories cannot. The combination of movement, costume, and music paints a picture unlike any written work.


Hip-Hop shows passion and resistance. The intense base in the music mirrors the hard steps in the dance, and the fluid rapping mimics the fluid motions in break dance.

In the Tchaikowsky's ballet The Nutcracker the entire story is told through dance. The meaning of every move can be determined in a much more meaningful way than if the story had just been told to you. The way a dance is performed gives thought and grace to every plot. Dancing is often a much more subtle way to tell a tale.

Dance in Things Fall Apart

“At last the two teams danced into the circle and the crowed roared and clapped. The drums rose to a frenzy- old men swayed to its intoxicating rhythm” (Achebe 29). This passage from Things Fall Apart highlights the impact dance and rhythm has on the Igbo culture. The whole village was there to celebrate and even old men were grooving to the beat. They use dancing to get them pumped up for the wrestling tournament. They also use dance at funerals in order to give a traditional farewell to one who has passed away. “The drums and dancing reached fever heat” (Achebe 74). For the Igbos, dance tells a story of strength and community. They show variety in the stories of dance from celebration to religious ceremonies to farewells and dance is the thread that loops them all together.


Dance is a method of expression that has definitely stood the test of time. The most amazing part is the variety and adaptability it entails. As noted above dance tells so many stories in countless styles, from rigorous ballet and passionate tango to the glimpse into cultures from irish or rain dancing. One could write insightful poems which create the lyrics, and pump out the tunes to accompanying those words, but nothing is as emotionally stimulating and inspiring as incorporating twists and twirls to give songs a sense of visual expression. Dance can tell stories in a way other forms can't. It is an essential part of our society.

Works Cited

Chinua, Achebe. Things Fall Apart. Nigeria : Heinemann Educational Books, 1959. Print.

Google Images. Web. 12 December 2010.

"The Haka." 12 December 2010. <>

"The Haka - New Zealand vs. Tonga." 2010. 12 December 2010.

"Hay-Lush-ka Manual." Guides and Princess Program. Web. 7 Dec 2010. <>.

"Nutcracker, Dance of the Mirlitons." 2010. Web. 12 December 2010.