In the closing decades of the 20th century, performing arts critics became increasingly despondent about the longevity of these art forms. Many believed that the performing arts would gradually become obsolete, thanks to the rise of the TV and also of the early Internet. The critics stated that the arts would become as relevant to 21st-century society as string quartets were to their own time, and believed that gradually, the performing arts world would become unfashionable and little used by society. Despite these prophecies of doom, performing arts have not diminished as expected, and instead are continuing to attract new talent and expertise. There are several reasons why the performing arts are still essential to modern society.
From the very beginnings of the performing arts colleges in London and Paris, the importance of self-expression to artists was emphasised. The theatre, dance and other performing arts can teach people how to express themselves effectively, and can also be a tool through which people with disabilities can communicate. Many performing arts students suffer from shyness when they start attending classes and gradually become more confident as they find ways to communicate. In addition to teaching self-expression, the performing arts help society as a whole in self-knowledge and understanding. Theatre and the performing arts teach society about itself, hoping to point out the attitudes and mindsets of current society. It can be a tool used to educate people about their current conditions.
One of the reasons why there are so many performing arts colleges in London and Paris, often seen as important educational centres for theatre and dance, is that the performing arts teach us about our history and educate us in other ways. Classic theatre, such as Shakespeare, and Moliere, helps us to understand the people around us and how they might be expected to react in certain situations. Even works by Sheridan, such as the School for Scandal, teaches us about ourselves and was regarded as risqué political commentary when it was first performed. The fact that governments regularly attempt to close down theatres and other performing arts centres when there is a revolution or a military coup demonstrates the importance theatre has in order to maintain the history and understanding of a country’s citizens.
Above all else, the performing arts are about being creative. Without a creative voice, a society may become all but dead inside, and a social group without any creativity is likely to be repressive and tyrannical rather than a force for good. The importance of having people in society who can express themselves creatively is without doubt. Biologists have argued that the formation of creativity was the most important step in human development and that society cannot move forward without creative people. Most social groups have some kind of performing arts courses, whether that is learning how to perform traditional dance, or speaking Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. What is vital is that performing arts continue to be nurtured and encouraged.