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   Course Title    Dance History
Lecturer    Heili Einasto
Institution    Viljandi Culture College
Country    Estonia

  1. Aim of the Course
  2. To offer an overview of dance in different cultures and periods and to use this knowledge as a resource in dance composition.

  3. General Outline
  4. The course follows dance from the prehistoric ages up to the present times from the Euro-central and social viewpoint. Dance is treated in its cultural-social context in which the following themes are looked into: dance and gender, dance and nation/ethnicity, dance and different social groups. The emphasis of the course is on professional dance, but the first semester touches upon dance in religious and everyday context. Within each historical period special attention is paid on how this period is read by present-day scholars, and how the 20th century dance masters have treated the period in their choreographic works.

  5. Program

  1. Defining dance. Dance and movement. Animals and dance.
  2. Dance in the prehistoric ages and traditional cultures.
  3. Present-day choreographers using prehistoric material: Maurice Bejart, Jiri Kylian, John Neumeier. Dance as a definer and enforcer of gender roles.
  4. First high cultures and the place of dance in the everyday life of these people. Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
  5. Dance in the lives of medieval and renaissance people. Dance of death. Dance mania. 20th century treatment of the period.
  6. Dance and court during renaissance. Catharina de Medici. Reading renaissance today.
  7. Masques in England and their political connections during James I and Charles I.
  8. Dance and court in the baroque period: Louis XIV. Baroque and present-day choreographers.
  9. Dance and religion in early high cultures. Belly dance. Orientalism.
  10. Religious dance festivities in Ancient Greece and Rome.
  11. Dance in Christian cultures. Christian dance today.
  12. Biblical themes in dance: Prodigal Son, Joseph the Beautiful.

  1. Attitudes to professional dancers through ages. Professional dance in the Antique world.
  2. Professional dances in the Middle Ages. Commedia dell'arte.
  3. Moliere, French opera-ballet. First professional ballerinas. The evolution of the classical ballet and its ideological background.
  4. The problems of reconstructing dance. The ideas of Enlightenment and their reflection on dance stage.
  5. Ballet d'action and divertissements. Dance reforms in the 18th century: Noverre and Angiolini.
  6. Democratisation of ballet stage (ballet "La Fille Mal Gardee" and its different versions), Italian drama ballet.
  7. The Great French Revolution, its effect on cultural and dance life.
  8. Romanticism. National romanticism. The features of romantic ballet.
  9. Romanticism from "La Sylphide" to "Giselle". Themes in ballet. The emergence of the ballerina.
  10. Ballet in the second half of the 19th century: ballet in bourgeois' societies. "Coppelia".
  11. Present-day versions of "Coppelia" (Magui Marin). Imperial ballet in Russia: Marius Petipa.
  12. Imperial multi-act ballet, the evolution of dance technique. "Sleeping Beauty" and "Swan Lake".
  13. Present-day versions of imperial ballet (Matthew Bourne, Mats Ek, Mark Taylor).

  1. Russian ballet at the beginning of the 20th century. Ballet reforms and ballets of Fokin.
  2. "Russian seasons" in Paris and their effect on Western European dance life.
  3. The birth of professional dance in Estonia. Nationalism and dance in Estonia.
  4. The birth of English national ballet: Ninette de Valois, Marie Rambert, Frederick Ashton.
  5. French ballet in the 20th century: Serge Lifar, Roland Petit.
  6. Neoclassisism: George Balanchine, William Forsythe.
  7. USA ballet and musical: Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins.
  8. Revolutsions in Russia and their effect on dance life. Discussions on the essence of ballet.
  9. Ballet in Soviet Russia in the 1920s: Feodor Lopuhhov, Kasyan Goleizovski.
  10. Drama ballet. Stalinism and ballet. Rostislav Zahharov.
  11. Estonian ballet before 1940.
  12. Ballet after the Second World War. Birgit Cullberg.
  13. Modern ballet: Maurice Bejart, John Neumeier.
  14. Soviet and Estonian ballet after World War II.

  1. Modern dance – what is it? Problems of definitions, effect of defining on how you see.
  2. Negation of classical ballet and modern dance in the USA.
  3. Modern dance in Germany and its ties to national socialism: Laban, Wigman.
  4. Searching for synthetic art form in the 1930s: Kurt Jooss, Rahel Olbrei.
  5. Martha Graham.
  6. Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Jose Limon
  7. Border between modern dance and jazz dance: Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty.
  8. Merce Cunningham and the theory of chance.
  9. Dance and other media. Alwin Nikolais, Philippe Decoufle.
  10. Negating dance: Judsoni Dance Theatre and postmoderninsm.
  11. Dance Theatre: Pina Bausch, Meryl Tankard.
  12. Dance or acrobatics? Pilobolus, Moses Pendleton.
  13. Possibilities of "pure dance": Paul Taylor, David Parsons.
  14. Eclecticism as an art form: Twyla Tharp.
  15. Minimalism in dance.
  16. Modern dance in Estonia.


  1. Skills
  2. After completing the course the student can distinguish different dance styles and forms and is able to see dance in its cultural-political context. The student has understood that dance can be approached from different standpoints and aspects and has learned the principles of academic discussion.

  3. Organisation of the course
  4. The course combines lectures and seminars. The lectures are supported by audio- and video-material. Students are required to make presentations of the required readings and lead discussions on the themes presented in the course program.

    I. and III. semester will end in oral and written pass/fail exam (either one gives 1 credit); II. and IV. semester will end in a written grade exam (1 and 1,5 credits respectively), in a form of research paper of 3—5 typewritten A4 pages. The theme of the paper should be presented for confirmation no later than one month prior the deadline.

  5. Evaluation
  6. Class attendance and active class participation – 30%, presentations – 30%, exam - 40%.

  7. Required readings


  1. Lips, Julius E. Asjade algusest: Inimese kultuuriajalugu. 9. peatükk: Esimene näitelava, lk 284-309; Tallinn: Valgus 1968
  2. Lips, Eva Indiaaniraamat. 6. peatükk: Tantsitud kreedo, lk 158-178; Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus 1961
  3. Gellner, Ernest Rahvused ja rahvuslus. Akadeemia 10-12/94 ja 1/95
  4. Susan Au Ballet and Modern Dance. London: Thames and Hudson 1987
  5. Gromov, Igor 'Usaldusväärne kroonik, harukordne portretist ja suur poeet: Charles Didelot' Teater. Muusika. Kino 1/88, lk 39-44
  6. Einasto, Heili 'Maria Taglioni' Teater. Muusika. Kino 9/84, lk 82-87
  7. Einasto, Heili 100 aastat moderntantsu: pilguheit Eesti poolelt. Tallinn. Eesti Entsüklopeediakirjastus 2000
  8. Tormis, Lea Eesti balletist. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat 1963
  9. Värk, Vahur 'Kes? Maurice Bejart' Teater. Muusika. Kino 12/86, lk 48-53Herkül, Kadi '"Preili Julie" draamast balletini' Teater. Muusika. Kino 5/92, lk 21-29
  10. Herkül, Kadi 'Kes? Mats Ek' Teater. Muusika. Kino 7/93, lk 65-69


  1. Aul, M. (tõlk) Vana Idamaa: Vana Idamaa rahvaste ajalooliste allikate kogu. Tallinn: Ecotalent 1994
  2. Duby, Georges Katedraalide aeg. Tallinn: Kunst 1999
  3. Gurevitš, Aron Keskaja inimese maailmapilt. Tallinn: Kunst 1992
  4. Le Goff, Jaques Keskaja Europpa kultuur. Tallinn: Kupar 2000
  5. Villari, Rosario (koost) Barokiajastu inimene. Tallinn: Avita 2000
  6. Plissetskaja, Maia Mina, Maia Plissetskaja. Tallinn 1997
  7. Blok, Ljubov Klassitšeskii tanets: istorija i sovremennostj. Moskva: iskusstvo 1987
  8. Krasovskaja, Vera Zapadnoevropeiskii baletnõi teatr: Ot istokov do seredinXVIII beka. Leningrad: Iskusstvo 1979
  9. Krasovskaja, Vera Zapadnoevropeiskii baletnõi teatr: Epoha Noverra. Leningrad: Iskusstvo1981
  10. Krasovskaja, Vera Zapadnoevropeiskii baletnõi teatr: Preromantizm. Leningrad: Iskusstvo1983
  11. Krasovskaja, Vera Istorija russkogo baleta. Moskva: iskusstvo 1978

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