In the field of performing arts, dance has earned a strong position
in Newfoundland and Labrador. In this province, as throughout the
world, dance is used as a means of self-expression, social interaction,
and entertainment. The variety of dance forms available is both extensive
and noteworthy: performance dance (i.e., ballet, jazz, tap), folk dance,
and aboriginal dance. All of these forms have their distinctive styles and
techniques. Moreover, they provide very different ways for exploring the
culture of the province and its people.
Social dance classes first appeared in the province in the latter half
of the nineteenth century. Taught in the capital city of St. John's,
popular dance forms of the day spread quickly throughout the province.
From these early days, the variety of dance classes offered has grown
dramatically. It is now possible to study such disciplines as ballet,
jazz, tap, mime, modern dance, Latin dance, and country line dancing.
While dance schools have appeared throughout the province, St. John's
remains the hub of activity, now boasting its own teacher training
school and a performing dance theatre. With the many opportunities
provided by the growth of performance dance, it is hardly surprising
that the province has produced a significant number of talented dancers.
Some have gone on to study and dance with recognized schools and
companies throughout the world, while others have chosen to stay and
foster the dance community within the province.
While performance dance is the usual form of dance that comes to
mind when one is considering the performing arts, folk dance also
has a prominent position. Settlers from Britain and Ireland brought
to the province the folk dances of their homelands. While in many ways
they still bear a striking resemblance to the dances found in Britain
and Ireland, over the centuries these dances have come to assume
characteristics which are unique to Newfoundland and Labrador. Today
there are concerns that these dances, if not actively preserved, may
in time be lost. With the arrival of popular forms of social dance
in the province, and with a wealth of information now available through
the media, many of the province's young people have turned away from
the traditional dance forms and embraced instead the popular dance
culture. For this reason, individuals and folk dance groups have
undertaken the study and preservation of the folk dances of the provinces.
While the folk dances brought to the island by settlers have a long and
fascinating history, the dances of the aboriginal people of the province
are rooted in even longer traditions. The Micmac, Innu, and Inuit each
have their own distinctive styles and forms of dance. Whether used for
ceremonial or social activities, these dance forms are an integral part
of the culture of the province. Unfortunately, with the extinction of
the Beothuk, Newfoundland and Labrador lost a portion of its cultural
history that can never be replaced or preserved.
Throughout the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, dance has remained
an important cultural expression in the life of the people of the province.
It serves as a means of carrying on traditions, while still allowing room
©1998, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site Project