Dance is one of the oldest known art forms in human history. Dancing has been a part of human culture for centuries, with the earliest records of it coming from Egypt around 3300 BCE.
Cave paintings in India dating back to around 9,000 BCE also provide proof of existence of ancient dance forms. Almost every culture around the world boasts of a dance form of their own that is used to tell stories, celebrate an occasion and express feelings.
Throughout history, women have always played a more dominating role in the field of dancing. They have quite literally taken the center stage in dancing and have also played a crucial part in modernising the different dance forms that currently exist.
We owe a lot to female dancers who not only excelled in the art form but also took the time to modernise them and make them more accessible to the world.
Top female dancers in the world
Scroll down to know about some of the top female dancers in the world –
- Anna Pavlova
Born February 12, 1881, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Anna Pavlova went on to become one of the best dancer of her time. She is still well-loved and remembered today. Her interest in ballet began developing when she went to see a performance of Marius Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty with her mother.
She began her training as a dancer in 1891 at the Imperial School of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre. She worked hard to learn her craft and rose steadily through the ranks to become a prima ballerina in 1906.
Later, she joined the renowned company of the Mariinsky Theater, where she performed in ballets such as “Sleeping Beauty” and “Giselle.”
In 1907, she went on a Europe tour with her company Ballets Russes and performed in cities like Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. In 1909, she, along with her company, visited Paris and London. left the imperial ballet in 1913 and began touring the world on her own.
She is most well known for her iconic “Dying Swan” solo, which was based on choreography by Michel Fokine. Pavlova was known for her elegant and graceful style of dancing, as well as her incredible technique.
Besides being a gifted performer, she was also a true pioneer. She was the first ballerina to take her art form abroad and toured the world for over 20 years.
- Rukmini Devi Arundale
Rukmini Devi Arundale, prominent indian classical dancer and best known for reviving Bharat Natyam dance form was born on February 29, 1904 in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. As a child, Rukmini Devi would regularly accompany her father K.A Nilakanta Sastri, a sanskrit scholar and historian on his travels.
During this travels, Rukmini Devi became acquainted with classical dance forms. She was initially interested in Western Ballet. In 1928, She met Anna Pavlova, the greatest russian ballerina of her time in Bombay and expressed her interest. Anna arranged for her to take lessons from Cleo Nordi. Cleo was a student of Anna Pavlova.
But Pavlova also advised her to learn more about traditional indian dance forms. Rukmini Devi took Anna Pavlova advice and began learning Bharat Natyam from Mylapore Gowri Amma, and Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai.
She was around 30, when she began dancing. She publicly performed for the first time at Theosophical Society’s Diamond Jubilee Convention in 1935. She established Kalakshetra, an academy for dance and music in Chennai and began experimenting with Bharat Natyam dance form.
The dance form then had a lot of negative stereotypes associated with it as it was only practiced by Devdasis (female servants who dedicated their life to the service of gods). She changed the original name ‘Sadhir’ and also modernised some of the movements that were considered erotic. She instead focused more on the devotional aspect of the dance form. Rukmini Devi is also known for introducing set designs, costumes, lighting and temple jewellery which are now commonly associated with the dance form.
- Martha Graham
Born in 1894 in Pennsylvania, Martha Graham was a celebrated dancer and choreographer remembered for her contribution to modern dance in America. Martha Graham studied ballet and studied modern dance with her teacher, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn.
She was known for her unique style and groundbreaking work which shattered the classical ballet conventions of the time. She often used unexpected and expressive movements, angles and poses in her choreography.
Martha Graham developed a vocabulary of more than 200 movements, which she organized into a codified system. This system of movement became known as the ‘Graham technique’ and is still used in dance training today.
Martha Graham is remembered for the innovative works she created throughout her lifetime. Her works often explored themes of identity, emotions, and relationships, and she was often inspired by her own life experiences. Some of her most famous works include ‘Primitive Mysteries’ (1931), ‘Appalachian Spring’ (1944) and ‘Clytemnestra’ (1958).
Martha Graham’s influence can still be seen in contemporary dance today, with many of her works being recreated and performed regularly. Martha Graham’s legacy as a revered dancer, choreographer and innovator continues to inspire dancers and audiences alike.
- Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham was a renowned american dancer-choreographer known for her creative interpretations of African, South American, and Caribbean dance forms and movements.
In addition to that, she is also an anthropologist known for groundbreaking work in the field of dance anthropology.
As a student at the University of Chicago, Dunham chose anthropology as her field of study. She also formed her first dance group when she was a student at the university.
After getting her bachelor’s degree, she visited Brazil and the Caribbean for field studies for her master’s on the rituals and dance movements of native inhabitants of South America.
It was also around this time that she began to explore the African roots of black culture. Later on, she also did a PhD in Anthropology. After completing her fieldwork and returning to the United States, Katherine Dunham composed a ballet called the “L’Ag’Ya,” inspired by caribbean dance movements.
Two years later, she created an all-black company and began touring the world by 1943. At the same time, she also started working on a number of different projects, which included choreographing for opera, broadway performances, and films.
She also founded the Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research, which later became The Katherine Dunham School of Cultural Arts in 1952. It was at this time the Dunham technique that combined ballet with caribbean dance movements was born.
- Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker was a legendary entertainer, humanitarian, activist, and icon of the 1920s. Born in 1906 in Missouri, she was an orphan from a young age and was the first African-American to perform as a headliner in the United States.
Baker had an incredibly successful career as a singer, dancer, and performer, quickly becoming one of the most famous entertainers of her time. Her glamorous stage persona, exotic costumes, and daring dance moves made her a star in the United States, Europe, and South America. In addition to her singing and dancing, Baker also starred in several films, including Zouzou and Princesse Tam-Tam.
Baker was an outspoken advocate for human rights and was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement. She was an advocate for racial equality and was a member of the NAACP. She also joined the French Resistance during World War II and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for her efforts.
Baker’s humanitarian work earned her numerous awards, including the French Legion of Honor and the NAACP Spingarn Medal. She also used her celebrity status to help end segregation in the United States, with her activism helping to secure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Josephine Baker was a remarkable woman whose impact lives on to this day. Her courage, compassion, and commitment to making the world a better place will never be forgotten.
The list of famous female dancers does not stop here however. There are many female dancers who through their talent, technique and innovativeness has contributed immensely to this field.
Because of these iconic women, many more women are taking up dancing as a full-time career now with full support from their friends and family.
Do you like dancing publicly or do you only prefer to dance when no one is looking? Tell us in the comments below.
With 5 years of experience in the field, Amelia Moore is an online entrepreneur by profession and a passionate blogger and content writer. She loves to write content about Pets, Travel, Entertainment, fashion, and many more. She has experience at the Pets Magazine, Essay Writing Guides, theparentsmagazine