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Ethnochoreology (also dance ethnology, dance anthropology) is the study of dance through the application of a number of disciplines such as anthropology, musicology, ethnomusicology, and ethnography. The word itself is relatively recent and etymologically means “the study of ethnic dance”, though this is not exclusive of research on more formalized dance forms, such as classical ballet, for example. Thus, ethnochoreology reflects the relatively recent attempt to apply academic thought to why people dance and what it means.

Ethnochoreology is not just the study or cataloguing of the thousands of external forms of dances—the dance moves, music, costumes, etc.— in various parts of the world, but the attempt to come to grips with dance as existing within the social events of a given community as well as within the cultural history of a community. Dance is not just a static representation of history, not just a repository of meaning, but a producer of meaning each time it is produced—not just a living mirror of a culture, but a shaping part of culture, a power within the culture:

“The power of dance rests in acts of performance by dancers and spectators alike, in the process of making sense of dance… and in linking dance experience to other sets of ideas and social experiences.”[1]

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  1. ^ John Blacking. (1984) “Dance as Cultural System and Human Capability: An Anthropological Perspective.” in Dance, A Multicultural Perspective. Report of the Third Study of Dance Conference, ed. J. Adshead, 4-21, Guildford, University of Surrey.