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Dance, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M016-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

The aesthetics of dance is the philosophical investigation of the nature of dance, of our interest in it, especially as an art form, and of the variety of aesthetic judgments we make about it – judgments of beauty, grace, line and other aesthetic qualities. Most philosophical issues concerning dance result from considering philosophical questions that arise in other areas: another art form, art in general, or human action. Sometimes the issue for dance can usefully be seen as a combination of issues from other areas. Often, one’s response to such issues gives a possible direction for one’s thoughts about dance.

A selection of such questions can be taken from the characteristics of dance. Since some dances are works of art, is there a kind of judgment characteristic of an interest in art, and, if so, what are its features? In particular, and in parallel with questions for other arts, does knowledge of the choreographer’s intention have any role in understanding the dance? What follows for the understanding of dance from the fact that dance is a multiple art: that a particular dance (like a particular piece of music) can be performed in London at the same time as it is performed in New York? What follows from dance’s status as a performing art (like music)? Is any special role for the understanding of dance to be assigned to a notated score in a dance notation? (If so, does this differ from music?) How is the special place of the dancer to fit into accounts of understanding dance? As some dances are regularly thought to be communicative, how does dance differ (if at all) from so-called ‘nonverbal communication’? More generally, dance study must address far-reaching philosophical issues: the place of dance as human action; the ‘role’ of dance, for example, in ritual; the relevance of the history and traditions of dance-forms to the understanding of those forms.

Citing this article:
McFee, Graham. Dance, aesthetics of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M016-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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