Dance is important to Wee Folk for many reasons, and these include some reasons many human beings might not imagine. In most tribes, especially among Fairies and the more sophisticated groups of Elves, Household Sprites, Regional Sprites, and Nature Sprites, education in dance is considered as important as literature is among human beings. Indeed, dance can be an important medium for communication. It is fundamental to games, for many tribes. It is used for bonding, at events ranging from social gatherings to meetings for conflict resolution. It is used to express joy, sorrow, grief, and thanks. It is used for worship. It is most often used for no other reason than to flow with the music.
Interpretive dance is especially important to Fairies and other groups that put care into education of their young. The ability to communication through dance is a vital adjunct to education, and even more important for speech and literature than it is for music. The languages of Wee Folk are primarily telepathic and do not depend on the sounds of words in the way that human languages do, so dance is considered a part of language. Choreography for ballet is viewed in much the same way a libretto is for opera.
Young Fairies are taught to dance in a way that conveys precise ideas. The children are first taught to convey specific sentences. They begin with such obvious ideas as, “The wind blew the tree’s branches back and forth.” In time they graduate to things more difficult to communicate in dance, such as, “These pebbles smell like lavender, but those smell like apricots.” (Though I have not actually witnessed this type of education applied to dance, I have experienced it with drawing and other artwork in a course I took in college. I have written an article, An Art Lesson, about it.)
Education in dance is reinforced by games Wee Folk play, and since many of them love games, dance for games continues into adulthood for many tribes. One game, for example, is rather like charades, except there is no guessing and no conventional interaction between the dancer and the audience.
In one form of this game, a group of short stories is recorded on objects that can be drawn from a hat, and the dancers take turns drawing and telling them in dance. The stories are intentionally chosen to be difficult, and the audience must agree on how well they were told. After the story is danced, it is told verbally so the audience can compare. A perfect result can be achieved if the audience agrees unanimously on the full and precise telling of the story.
Telling a story in dance is usually considered less difficult than the task of producing a challenging story. For that reason, older and more experienced Wee Folk are usually those who choose the stories, and younger ones choose to try dancing them. There is an exception to this practice, a game which involves producing a distraction to make it more difficult for both the dancer and the audience to focus on the story. To comprehend this fully, you might imagine a dancer providing an interpretation of a bucolic love poem, such as Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, to the accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in which the percussion section of the orchestra includes muskets and cannon. A dancer who can covey the poem accurately under such conditions would be considered very able, indeed.
Interpretive dance is often used for more everyday events. Clearly, since it can be used to communicate specific ideas, it can be used as an elegy, perhaps accompanied by music, but without words. It is often used for worship, to express not only thanks but also supplication. I have been told that some adaptations of religions practiced by Wee Folk have sacraments that are performed in dance and music, without words. In mentioning this, I should point out that some Fairies, who in most ways share in a rather orthodox way the beliefs of the human populations around them, consider Thanksgiving a sacrament.
Clearly, the dances of Wee Folk are not all interpretive. When Wee Folk dance, they are usually just responding to the music around them, in very much the same way humans do. They often dance in similar response to natural processes, however, as though those processes were themselves musical. Such dances do not require rhythm much of the time, but Fairies, Elementals, and probably others find rhythmic music in nature that human beings often miss, and respond to it. In the cases of some rather slow-moving Gnomes, I could imagine a dance to the rhythm of the ocean tides, or even the seasons. (As I am writing this, I find myself being told, “Yes, many of Rock Gnomes dance to the seasons.”)
The pictures we see painted of fairies dancing in circles, often elevated in the air, holding hands and appearing in slight disarray, show a spontaneous type of dance that is common, called a circle dance. It does not require music or rhythm, but can be done to music, most often of the dancers themselves singing. The Wee Folk form groups, moving in circles, often inviting passers-by and folk they encounter to join.
The circle dance is usually performed for the fun of it, almost as a game. It can have a goal of seeing how big the area encircled can be. It might go around a churchyard, or even a village, with large numbers of Fairies and other Wee Folk laughing and singing as it goes.
A circle dance is not always a game, however, and is sometimes done to honor someone, especially as a memorial. It also can be done to impart protection to the area or people who are encircled by the dance. I have been told that when Fairies wish to favor one side or another in a war, they use the circle dance to form a sort of defense for some areas, but I should also note that Wee Folk do not usually get involved in the wars of human beings and nearly never have wars of their own. I have also been told that Wee Folk will dance in circles to protect certain areas in storms, and this is especially common when they feel attached to livestock or people. For human beings, it is one potential benefit of living the sorts of lives that Wee Folk would approve of.
I have never heard of Wee Folk being involved in ball room dancing, though I suspect that is simply a matter of chance rather than an evidence that they do not get involved. They do, however, get involved in other dances humans do. Certain types of modern dance are not interesting to them, sometimes because they experience things differently from human beings, and sometimes because they are too easy. They do not feel the excitement of slam dancing, because most are etherial creatures that cannot be slammed. I have heard that some tried break dancing, but, without the physical limitations experienced by humans, they found it too easy and went on to other things. There are kinds of street dance that can be very expressive and some of them participate in those.
Wee Folk of all sorts seem to favor any dance that can be processional. Though most of these are not performed by human beings, the type includes Morris Dances. In fact, any dances performed by groups of people in parades would probably attract Wee Folk.
Wee Folk are also attracted to those dances that involve groups of people in formations. These include the square dance, quadrille, English country dance, and contra dance. Wee Folk tend to perform all of these with callers, much the same way humans do with square dance. This means that the contra dance, for example, is rather more improvisational in appearance than it is when human beings do it. And here, the trick to the choreography is to make it work as an art, with a satisfying flow to the appearance. I suspect human beings could do this, as well, but people might find the calling distracting. Wee Folk can embed commands in the music, and so, to a human ear, it is unobtrusive when it is noticed, which it rarely is.
Wee Folk sometimes participate in human dance in a way that is quite visible to ordinary human beings. With sufficient skill, they can project themselves as human, even though they lack the size and physical nature of human beings. This practice is frowned upon among most groups, however, because a few people perceive what they are doing, including some who do not believe in Wee Folk. This can lead to very undesirable complications, including frightening potential friends into prejudicial distrust that can last a long time.
Some Wee Folk get into human bodies, either at birth, as original owners or as walk-ins who take over the body of a person who is dying and bring it back to health. As it happens, some of these people, while aware of other Wee Folk, are unaware of the fact that they, themselves, are in any way anything other than purely human. However that may be, Wee Folk inhabiting human bodies can, and often do, participate in dance and other human activities.
Other Wee Folk participate or observe invisibly. If they participate, they do not get in the way, but the thoughts they project during the event may have effect on the human beings there. If the Fairies and other local sprites enjoy themselves, the human beings are likely to enjoy the company all the more.
(I would like to add that I am not an expert, or even all that well versed, in dance. For that reason, my feeling is that this posting is probably inadequate to the task it undertakes. I would very much appreciate any input I can get so I can amplify or correct it. There is a reply and comment area below, for those who would use it. Thanks. George)