What is dance history and how does it relate both to history generally and to the study of dance? If dance history can be regarded as a worthwhile academic activity how might it best be studied, engaged in and communicated? This text is written in response to such questions.
It is based on an earlier publication Dance History: A methodology for study published in 1983 by Dance Books. Then the need was to provide a theoretical basis for dance history as a burgeoning area of academic study, to offer examples of good history writing and to outline various curriculum development strategies. In the ensuing decade dance history, particularly at university and college level, has become well-established worldwide and a wealth of dance history writing and other forms of communication is beginning to accumulate. However, new theoretical positions, innovative technologies and an ever-growing concern to understand the present in the light of the past confront dance historians. There is a need to re-conceptualize, to re-tool and to re-appraise the study of dance history if it is to move into the second millenium in a healthy, vigorous and confident manner.
The three-part format of the original text proved successful and has been retained but the chapters have been re-written and several new contributions included. Part 1 now focuses more directly on specific theoretical and methodological matters. Part 2 provides examples of good historical writing which range across many dance genres and style in both place and time. The authors in this section are distinguished dance historians drawn from five different countries and across three continents and they bring a wealth of experience and varied historical stances and expertise to the text. In Part 3 the two chapters are concerned with new ways of studying dance history and writing about it. The three appendices form a valuable source base to the whole as well as providing complementary sources for dance history study generally. This new publication is written with university and college students and their teachers in mind.
Unlike other subjects, which might be hampered by a long tradition, it is possible to be flexible in methodology and adaptable in technique in dance history practice. To be free from entrenched positions about what dance history should do and how it should do it can be an advantage in developing a discipline that is responsive to the activity being studied.