Chapter 1 provides the foundation line for the rest of this book in outlining and discussing the nature of history generally and, more particularly, dance history. It is acknowledged that at a basic level it is possible to study dance history, write about it and be involved in other forms of dance history communication without addressing such epistemological questions as what constitutes dance history, what purposes it serves, what roles are available to the dance historian and so on. However, it is contended here that any study of dance history, in whatever form and for whatever purpose, can be enlightened and enriched by an understanding of the nature of the dance history enterprise. To apprehend and appreciate the field of operation is a vital preliminary to acquiring knowledge and understanding in any area and dance history is no exception to this.
In section 1.2 the general historical perspective is outlined as the forerunner to a more detailed consideration in section 1.3 of dance in its historical perspective. Together these two sections reflect relatively well established perceptions of both general history and dance history. In section 1.4 the discussion is opened up to include reference to the current challenges being made to traditional approaches in the form of radical perceptual shifts and in the introduction of highly innovative practices. In the light of this discussion, section 1.5 identifies selected areas of dance history as an academic discipline requiring strategic reconsideration and redevelopment, and the chapter is summarized in section 1.6.
As an academic discipline history is often justified on the grounds of inherent worthwhileness since the past of any group of people is regarded as a cultural legacy to be valued. In addition, history is seen to provide links between the past and the present so that, through its study, the here and now can be informed.