The desire to dance is one of the primitive instincts of mankind. It has been said that ‘dancing’ is older than anything except eating, drinking and love, and that ‘rhythm is life’… and rhythm is the basis of dancing. It is a fact that emotions stimulate the body into movement, the desire to move in response to emotions is a physiological fact which will survive no matter how it may be suppressed, as long as people exist. The persistence of rhythm and its intimate association with sex and life itself is undeniable, and when rhythm and movement come together, dancing is born.
Prehistoric man expressed his emotions by movement in the day when speech has hardly been born. As time went on language was developed and the immediate need for mime and gesture no longer existed. However, the expressed movements of early man continued, though they ceased to be spontaneous and became first formal and, finally, traditional. They were adapted as part of the customs of the tribe which became later the foundation of folk dance.
The dance languished in the middle dark ages . It was mostly present in the church festival days, especially in Italy, France , and England. Indeed it is not really until the 15th century that we begin to find reliable records of the actual dances then in vogue : The “orchesographie” of “Thoinot Arbeau” published in France in 1588 constituted a major treatise describing the steps of the “danse de caractère” and the “danse de cour” of 15th and 16th century. The birth of classical ballet in that period of time gave the way to a new mode of expression converging towards a theatrical form which will rule Europe entirely during four centuries.
It was not until the latter half of the 17th century after Louis XIV has founded his “Académie royale de Musique et de Danse”, that hard and fast rules for the execution of every dance were laid down by the members of the “Académie” and the “5th positions” of the feet were formulated for the first time. These dances like the Minuet and the Gavotte were therefore spectacular and personal, and being spectacular they had to be based on a technique which was to some extent artificial. The legs had to be turned out, so as to provide a more graceful “line”, and many purely ‘decorative’ steps such as ”entrechats” and “cabrioles” were executed. The political function of the “ballet de cour” is to reinforce the image of the king, of his power and his justice in an eventful political environment; religious wars, conflicts between nobility and the power of “Richelieu” and then “Mazarin”.