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Manipulation of the elements of dance


One of the elements of dance.

The dancer moves in and through space. Dance movement takes up space, and a dance is performed in a space.

The elements of space are:

geometry of space
floor pattern
design in space
personal space
active space
performance space.


The tutorials are activities which guide students through the application of space time and dynamics which can be applied to your own compositions.

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Level refers to movement up and down the vertical axis.

The body can be moved through and on three basic levels. These are loosely defined as low, medium and high.

The low level consists of non-locomotor and locomotor movement on, along and/or close to the floor. Movements on the low level would include:
crawling, rolling, sitting, kneeling, lying, low level shapes and original locomotor movement that travels along the floor.

The low level may be used to represent fear, nervousness or hiding. It could be used as an original way of locomotion along the floor or to contrast the movement already in the phrase. There are many interpretations.

The medium level consists of non-locomotor and locomotor movement where there is contact with the floor by either the feet or hands, but not both. Locomotor movements include: running, turning, galloping, sliding.

Non-locomotor movement and shapes are limitless.

The medium level is generally the most used in dance. Students will combine level with shape, direction and pathway (and all the others), to achieve intent in the movement.

The high level occurs where the body shape is vertically long or where the body leaves the floor. These movements include: vertical balances on rise, jumps and leaps.

The high level may reinforce the idea of strength or power. It may also contrast with the low level to achieve the intent.

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Geometry of space - direction, dimension, plane

Direction refers to the position and movement of the body or body parts in relation to the space, audience and other performers.

Directions include: forwards, backwards, right, left, down, up, diagonal, sideways.

Example 1: demonstrates the dancer using the backward direction.

Example 2: demonstrates the sideways direction.

Example 3: demonstrates the diagonal direction.

Students will have their dancers face a given direction to reflect their intent, e.g
a position which faces a corner may indicate fear or hiding, and facing on a particular diagonal indicates a focus for the next movement.

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Dimension refers to the size of shapes or movements. Dimension is concerned with height, depth and width.

Words that would describe dimension are: wide, tall, narrow, thin, small, rounded, long, short, tubular, conical, spherical.

Students would use descriptive words such as these when they create shapes, which link to their intent/concept.

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A plane can be seen as the joining of two dimensions.

There are three planes in the body.

Movement on each of these planes occurs parallel to it.

The sagittal plane is an imaginary line which is drawn lengthwise through the body running from front to back. The body is divided into right and left halves.

Examples of movements in the sagittal plane would include:

Example 1: swinging or circling the arms and/or legs forward and backward from the shoulder or hip joint.

Example 2: bending and straightening the knee or elbow from the anatomical position.

Example 3: spinal rolls (rolling the body forward, bending each vertebrae from the head to the hip, and then unrolling the spine.

The frontal plane is an imaginary line running from side to side. The body is divided into front and back.

Examples of movements in the frontal plane would include:

Example 1: moving the arms or legs from the anatomical position directly to second.

Example 2: tilting the body sideways.

Example 3: a lateral bend of the spine.

The transverse plane is a line drawn through the body, dividing the body into top and bottom.

Examples of movements in the transverse plane include:

Example 1: turns.

Example 2 : moving the arms from first position to second position.

Example 3: carrying the leg from an arabesque position to second.

The types of movements chosen will be seen in conjunction with time and dynamics to create the desired effect in each of the phrases and sections of the work.

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Shape can be defined as the interrelated arrangement of the body or groups of bodies.

Shape is often classified into two broad categories: symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Symmetrical shapes are those where the body is seen as being equal in both halves around its centre.

Symmetrical shapes are used in dance to represent: balance, strength, power, steadiness, stability.

Asymmetrical shapes are those where the body parts are unequal.

Asymmetrical shapes are used in dance to represent: fluidity, movement, unsteadiness, continuity.

A work that is about being caged in and getting out will contrast strong symmetrical shapes, associated with being inside walls and bars with asymmetrical, more fluid shapes that would be used to represent freedom.

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Floor pattern

Floor pattern is the pathway that the dancer takes when moving through space. It is also an indicator of where the dancer has been.

The floor pattern can be any combination of: straight in all directions, circular, wavy, zig zag or spiral.

The floor pattern in a composition will often be linked to the intent of the dance or ‘work', and will also reflect the strong and weak areas of the stage.

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Design in space

Design in space is concerned with using space in a constructive and interesting way. There is a close link between the intent/concept of the dance and the spatial design.

Spatial design will consider body shape, the pathways created on the floor and the pathways created in the air. For example, if the intent of the work is stress, and the stress point is located in the down stage left corner, then the pathways in the work will be directed towards and away from that point. Also, while that area of the stage is being used, the shapes may be low and rounded because the stress is very strong.

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Personal space

Personal space is characterised by the area around the individual's body (kinesphere).

Personal space around the dancer will expand or contract as the shapes change.

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Active space

Active space occurs when the space itself comes alive, when it has meaning, or takes on symbolic suggestions of its own.

Active space is created by the shapes the body makes, it's direction and focus.

Active space is linked to the intent of the work and the interpretation of the dancer.

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Performance space

The performance space is the area on which the dance is performed. The performance space is usually seen as being a proscenium stage, but it can be as varied as dance can make it.

For the purposes of the HSC, the performance space is the area 10 m X 8m on which the exam takes place.

The performance space for core composition must be seen in relation to the intent of the dance.

The performance space has strong and weak areas, e.g centre stage is a powerful position. The upstage corners of the space are weak areas. The strong and weak areas will be altered by the direction, shape and focus of the dancer.

Diagonal pathways are aesthetically pleasing. However, the effect will change according to the dancer's focus and direction and whether the dancer is moving forward or backward along that diagonal.

A great deal of information is available about strengths and symbolism in the use of stage space. This information can be found in theatre texts and in Doris Humphrey's The Art of Making Dances.

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