Dancing has its place in all societies; yet the phenomenon of dance has been oddly neglected by most anthropologists. This volume is intended to further anthropological awareness of its critical relevance. It is claimed that, in a very important sense, society creates the dance, and it is to society and not just to the dancer's experience that we must turn to understand its significance. Performance has meaning within social process. The anthropological analysis of dance can be approached in a variety of ways. These are identified in the introduction to the volume, and then illustrated by seven case examples drawn from Africa, Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Oceanis.
In successive chapters, dancing is presented as a controlled emotional outlet whose form reflects cosmology; as a creative experience that draws adolescent girls into the adult world; as an extension of speech and gesture that adds further levels of meaning to formal occasions; as a strategy for orchestrating the climax of a successful exchange; as a challenge to the power of elders that generates an alternative reality; as a communial response to crisis that recreates order out of confusion; and as a sequence of transformations that periodically resolves an inherent social dilemma. The volume concludes with an assessment of the relevance of the work by a dance scholar. By revealing dance as an aspect - often the most spectacular aspect - of ritual behaviour, this work is intended to stimulate more anthropologists and those in related disciplines to realise the full potential of its study. It also offers insights to those who are principally interested in dance itself, as well as appealing to any reader who shares a curiosity about the ways in which the spectacle of dance can be interpreted.