“Traditional theatre performances usually combine acting, singing, dance and music, dialogue, narration or recitation but may also include puppetry or pantomime. These arts, however, are more than simply ‘performances’ for an audience; they may also play crucial roles in culture and society such as songs sung while carrying out agricultural work or music that is part of a ritual.”
The performing arts range from vocal and instrumental music, dance and theatre to pantomime, sung verse and beyond. They include numerous cultural expressions that reflect human creativity and that are also found, to some extent, in many other intangible cultural heritage domains. Music is perhaps the most universal of the performing arts and is found in every society, most often as an integral part of other performing art forms and other domains of intangible cultural heritage including rituals, festive events or oral traditions. Many forms of performing arts are under threat today. As cultural practices become standardized, many traditional practices are abandoned. Music is perhaps one of the best examples of this, with the recent explosion in the popularity of ‘World Music’. Though it performs an important role in cultural exchange and encourages creativity that enriches the international art scene, the phenomenon can also cause problems. Many diverse forms of music may be homogenized with the goal of delivering a consistent product. Music, dance and theatre are often key features of cultural promotion intended to attract tourists and regularly feature in the itineraries of tour operators. While this may bring more visitors and increased revenue to a country or community and offer a window onto its culture, it may also result in the emergence of new ways of presenting the performing arts, which have been altered for the tourist market. Whereas tourism can contribute to reviving traditional performing arts and give a ‘market value’ to intangible cultural heritage, it can also have a distorting effect, as the performances are often reduced to show adapted highlights in order to meet tourist demands Often, traditional art forms are turned into commodities in the name of entertainment, with the loss of important forms of community expression. In other cases, wider social or environmental factors may have a serious impact on performing art traditions. Safeguarding measures for traditional performing arts should focus mainly on transmission of knowledge and techniques, of playing and making instruments and strengthening the bond between master and apprentice. Safeguarding may also involve improvements in training and infrastructure to properly prepare staff and institutions for preserving the full range of performing arts. Cultural media, institutions and industries can also play a crucial role in ensuring the viability of traditional forms of performing arts by developing audiences and raising awareness amongst the general public. Audiences can be informed about the various aspects of a form of expression, allowing it to gain a new and broader popularity, while also promoting connoisseurship which, in turn, encourages interest in local variations of an art form and may result in active participation in the performance itself.