Philosophers writing on aesthetics used to preface their essays by deploring the low standard of thought prevailing in that subject. Since they never tried to show that dullness and folly were less rampant in other fields, one had to recognize in this practice a mere ritual. But one can always speculate on what social purpose rituals had once served. Similarly, philosophers who nowadays write on the aesthetics of dance preface their papers by deploring the tendency of philosophers to neglect the topic. Since they produce no hard evidence of such neglect, this practice too has to be seen as a ritual, and this ritual also calls for explanation. It reflects some unease about the place of dance in the philosophy of art, but the reasons for that unease are not obvious. This paper suggests ways in which the theory of dance might not fit easily into the theory of art in general, or why it might be felt not to do so.
Writing on dance certainly has a low intellectual profile. I had supposed that among the data to be reckoned with were a failure on the part of Hellenistic writers to write dance histories comparable to those histories of painting, sculpture, and music that were so widely read and quoted in the Renaissance, and a corresponding failure in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to write handbooks and treatises on the practice of dance comparable to the well-known treatises on the other fine arts from that encyclopedia-ridden age.