I have always found dance one of the most moving forms of art. It draws people together in a unique way, as everyone moves to the music as one. Throughout time, dance has been used to express culture, to impress others, to celebrate, and as a form of artistic expression. Each of these purposes for dance are relevant in both the Dutch dance performed in Holland, Michigan, and in the traditional dances of Renaissance Florence.
As an ephemeral art, dance is extremely difficult to capture for those that are not watching it in real time. De Practica by Guglielmo Ebreo de Pesano is one of the most comprehensive glimpses into the dance of renaissance Florence. This book itself is a beautiful book, with decorated borders, illuminated initials, velvet covering, and humanistic script. De Pracitca presents itself as an important book, implying that the information in it is essential to the Florentine culture.
Compared to Florence, the conservation of Dutch dance is much less dignified. Through little books and texts we can find some details on the presence and type of dance performed in Holland. The formatting of the books say a lot about each culture’s dance: De Practica draws attention to itself and asks to be read by everyone, while the books on Dutch dancing are simpler and for those particularly interested in them.
Digging into the information inside any of these materials explaining dance, we find that it is very difficult to understand. Both Guglielmo and Arbeau (an author that explains dance movements from Renaissance Florence) assume that their readers know many of the terms they use to describe the dances. Though this may have seemed helpful, it is necessary that the steps be broken down to a painfully simple amount for anyone to have a chance of recreating a dance. The same is applicable to the sources we have regarding Dutch dance. Though Holland, MI has Dutch dancing each year during Tulip Time, they were unable to fully recreate the dances that took place in the country Holland. This is due to a lack of comprehensive explanation of the traditional dances of the country.
There is, as we have seen, a stark contrast in the role that dance played in these cultures. In Florence, dance was often used to idealize the prince, to impress visiting world leaders, and to arrange treaties. Beyond political reasons, dance was performed during weddings and festivals as a form of celebration. Florentine’s used dance to express how important they believed they were: for they believed they were the descendants of the Roman Empire.
Holland, Michigan uses dance as more of a way to celebrate their culture. It is seen as a way to express gratitude towards their ancestors that provided them with this wonderful community. Dutch dance is also a way to share their culture with others. The dance helps shape the joyful atmosphere that Holland, MI strives to have, and cultivates an appreciation for their home country.
Regardless of where I am in the world, dance seems to follow me and give me insight into each culture I encounter.