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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony$
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Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182810

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182810.001.0001

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The Arts

The Arts

(p.283) Chapter 12 The Arts
Darwin's Unfinished Symphony

Kevin N. Laland

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the evolution of dance, which provides a wonderful case study with which to illustrate how human culture evolves. It shows that cultural evolution is a melting pot, with innovation often the product of borrowing from other domains, such that cultural lineages come together as well as diverge. This can be seen in the richly cross-fertilizing coevolution of dance, music, fashion, art, and technology, whose histories are intimately entwined. In the case of dance, evolutionary insights explain how humans are capable of moving in time to music; how we are able to synchronize our actions with others or move in a complementary way; how we can learn long, complex sequences of movements; why it is that we have such precise control of our limbs; why we want to dance what others are dancing; and why both participating in dancing and watching dance is fun. Armed with this knowledge, we can make better sense of why dance possesses some of the properties that it does, and why dances changed in the manner they did. As it is for dance, so it is for sculpture, acting, music, computer games, or just about any aspect of culture.

Keywords:   dance, arts, human culture, cultural evolution, coevolution, cultural lineages

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