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Overview of Dance - DEFINITION., SOURCES., DANCERS., SEGREGATED DANCING., MUSIC., COSTUMES., IMPORTANCE.

performed dances women egyptians

Dance, at its most basic, is rhythmic body movement, often performed to music. In modern society dance can be an art form, recreation, or religious expression. Professional dancers entertain through ballet, modern dance, tap, and a variety of other art forms, while non-professionals dance at celebrations such as weddings or for fun at discos and clubs. In ancient Egypt, however, dance mostly served a ritual purpose at funerals or in ceremonies for the gods and was limited to professional dancers. One papyrus from the reign of King Senwosret II (1844–1837 B.C.E. ) listed monthly dance performances incorporated into the New Moon, Half Moon and Full Moon festivals. Dancers performed annually at the Night of Welcoming the Flood Festival when the Nile rose; the Festival of the Five Days Between the Years during the New Year Festival; the Festival of Sokar, the sun god; the Festival of Hathor, the goddess of music, dance, and love; and many other festivals. The common scenes of dancers performing at banquets in New Kingdom tombs were probably also religious rituals, though the banquets initially appear to be social occasions with the dancers apparently entertaining the guests. Egyptians viewed social dancing, however, with suspicion. In one Late Period text, for example, “dancing in the desert” is synonymous with laziness. Non-professional dancing was virtually unknown in ancient Egyptian society.

SOURCES.

Scholars depend on scenes carved on tomb and temple walls to learn about Egyptian dance. A few ancient texts refer directly to dance, but the most useful texts for this study are the captions in tomb illustrations of dances and the liturgy recited during funerals. Both of these sources present difficulties in interpretation, however. Egyptian artists followed conventions for representing motion which differ greatly from the perspective drawings used in Western society since the Renaissance. Moreover, artists often chose a few characteristic poses to illustrate a dance, omitting important links between steps, because they only intended to represent enough of the dance to make it magically effective for the tomb owner. They never intended these illustrations to be used as a manual for learning the dances. All dance in Egypt seems to be programmatic, always representing or symbolizing something beyond the gestures of the dance itself, although scholars cannot always decipher the dance’s meaning. Yet the purpose and meaning of the dance and the accompanying captions must have been clear to most Egyptians.

DANCERS.

Most dancers were professionals who were members of the khener —an organization that could be a bureau in an institution or could function independently as a troupe. Institutional kheners were attached to temples, tombs, towns, and royal or other wealthy households. In some cases, the sons and daughters of the deceased performed the ritual dances at funerals. Dwarfs, or more likely pygmies, performed certain dances called the Dance of the God. They also performed with the khener during funerals. The Egyptians also represented animals such as monkeys and ostriches dancing.

SEGREGATED DANCING.

Depictions of dance show that men and women danced separately. Either a male or female couple performed the couples funeral dance called tjeref . Since the dancers impersonated the deceased in this dance, male tomb owners depicted male tjeref-dancers in their tombs while female tomb owners showed female tjeref-dancers in their tombs. Men performed another funeral dance called the muu -dance for both men and women because the muu-dancers represented ferrymen who guided the funeral processions of both men and women. Women generally performed the dance called iba , also part of the funeral ritual. Men acted as muu-dancers for deceased men and women acted as muu-dancers for deceased women. The dances thus were closely linked to the dancer’s gender.

MUSIC.

Dancers performed funeral dances and cult dances for the gods accompanied by percussion. The most common percussion “instrument” was hand clapping, and musicians used specially carved wooden clappers to increase the volume of this sound. Musicians also played the sistrum and the menat —two different kinds of ritual rattles—during the cult dances performed before the gods. Dancers at banquets sometimes accompanied themselves on the lute or danced to the harp. Women performed with woodwinds on very rare occasions at funeral banquets depicted in New Kingdom tombs.

COSTUMES.

Dancers often wore specialized costumes, jewelry, and headgear tailored to a specific dance. The muu-dancers, for example, wore a hat that never appeared in other contexts. Female dancers sometimes wore a ponytail weighted at the end with a ceramic disk or ball. Young male and female dancers often performed nude or wearing only a belt around the hips. Adult dancers wore fewer clothes than most Egyptians, though in some cases dancers wore “street clothes.” In any case, Egyptians in general felt comfortable with minimal clothing.

IMPORTANCE.

The Egyptians integrated dance into many aspects of their religious observance. At times, dance, as ambiguous as its meaning might be to modern observers, is the only evidence for certain religious beliefs in the earlier periods of Egyptian history. Scholars have historically underrated dance’s importance in Egyptian culture.

Overview of Fashion - IMPORTANCE OF CLOTHING., EVIDENCE FROM ART., TYPES AND ADORNMENTS. [next] [back] Overview of Architecture and Design - EGYPTIAN BUILDING TYPES., EGYPTIAN BELIEFS., ARCHITECTURE AND SOCIETY., RESOURCE ALLOCATION., CONTINUITY AND CHANGE.

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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over 3 years ago

great source of information. breaks down dance into a simple and easy to understand form. worked wonders on my assignment #thumbs up#

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almost 7 years ago

This was SO helpful to my project on ancient egypt. And guess what?! I got an A!!! :)