I set in motion a method, provided a venue, for people to publicly state Why Dance Matters but I have yet to reveal many of my own thoughts. This is my answer in a universal sense, as in why dance matters to all of us. Before the end of this initiative, I will get personal and answer why it matters to me.
It is of course an incomplete question. “Why does dance matter?” might implicate views from an educational, artistic, or cultural standpoint. I hope that these and many more will be addressed in the conversation generated from or through this event. I think talking about it matters and it doesn’t all have to be in grandiose terms as I think you’ll see from some of the shared content below this essay. Conversation is one path to understanding alternative views and synthesizing the goal of a public that is eager for, demands, and supports dance in education, in science, in cultural strategies, and beyond.
Why Does Dance Matter?
It’s a simple question with a multitude of answers. Answers that are as diverse as the incredible tapestry of minds and souls that utter them.
I’m not the first and certainly not the last to ask the question. An expectant audience asks this of each performer as he presents his offering on stage. A student looks for the reply in the eyes of their teacher, the guide to their experience. The soul doesn’t have to ask the body as it moves to the internal rhythm of the heart. It just knows.
So why do we have to ask? Why must we put it in words? It seems that the answer should be inherently clear to anyone whose body has for even one second embraced accord with that internal rhythm. So why must we be utterly clear in our conviction that dance matters?
Because from a base of oneness and shared experience there comes a point our eyes are opened to the differences in things. Lines are drawn and distinctions are made between what is worthy or unworthy, fresh or stale, good or bad. This isn’t necessarily a negative it just complicates things.
Dance as a means of expression or transcendence took its first hit when guttural responses replaced movement as the main form of communication between two people. Our advances in industry and technology have ultimately been packing a punch ever since, rendering our physical bodies less useful on a daily basis.
Our deep-rooted connection to movement has not changed, however. Babies… life begins with motion. Before there is sound, or sight, or awareness there is motion. We may continue to move for life – prolonging and procreating it, but fewer of us move to communicate or examine life and fewer still to be or feel closer to life in a spiritual sense. And so as a collective body we more readily forget these underused ways of moving. They are deemed less important, archaic, they are misunderstood, maybe labeled as bad… different. And it works on either end of the spectrum – those forgetting that movement can also be purely pleasurable would benefit from a reminder!
Why does dance matter? Because movement is a means to giving life, sustaining life, contemplating life, and sharing life. That’s what we get from moving. Dance is the outward expression of that life, what we give of our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves. It’s not the only way to do so but dance is certainly close to the source of existence. In any or all of its forms, be it the uninhibited cascade of activity accompanying a favorite song while no one else is looking, the authentic and unassuming gestures of a child, the elderly couple finding unity and recalling youth on the dance floor, the entertainer or the artist creating and conjuring magic on a nightly basis, dance matters.
Dance matters because through it we can access all four corners of being.
Dance matters because our stories, the experiences which we share despite whatever lines or divides we draw, matter.
Dance matters because we matter.
Some wonderful thoughts have been submitted via blog post and added to the event wall on Facebook, not to mention some of the amazing and heartfelt status updates coming down the wire. Folks are picking this up well beyond Facebook but if you hang out there, do come visit and sign up to “attend.” It’s fun to watch the curiosity and participation spread!
Check out these fantastic blog posts (titles are links):
Why Dance Matters: An Interview with 4 & 5 year-olds – Maria asks her young students why they LOVE coming to dance class. Sweet and honest answers.
Dance Matters Because Matter Dances and What Moves Us? – Just a slice of what Ann has to say: “I would watch the children crawling across the floor like caterpillars or monkeys, or running and jumping and rolling. It seemed like they were playing, but I could see they were building their strength and agility, their courage and determination. But it was more than that. They were given time to figure things out on their own, to make mistakes, to pay attention and to learn from each other. I watched my son learn that something that seems impossible at first becomes possible with practice. And I watched how this changed his willingness to try new things outside of class too. I watched his resilience and his character develop. The focus was on the journey and the process of growing.”
Why Dance Matters – Stacey’s collection of ideas in poetic form. “Dance is… a voice; unspoken; loud and clear; subtle; quiet; obvious; abstract; a way to say what can not be said any other way.” Stacey also offers some great questions to get a child in your life talking about dance.
Why Dance Matters – Shelley is a Bellydancer and shares why she feels dance matters in general and also why it matters to her. “We are comprised of flesh and our fleshy body carries us through the world. When it can’t function any more, neither can we. We – mind and body – are indivisible, but despite this innate truth it can be hard for our mind to actually live within our body. I mean this both in the sense of being ‘bodily aware’ and also in the sense of loving, respecting and being happy within the skin we wear.”
This is Why Dance Matters! – Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective, Inc. is a collective of ethnically diverse Philadelphia-based dance companies. A portion of their mission focuses on assisting and nurturing children affected by natural and/or socioeconomic disasters. They do this through performances, residencies and workshops throughout the United States and abroad. They tweeted (@IndiPitch) #WhyDanceMatters with this video, a glimpse of their North Philly Dance Camp.
Why Dance Matters – Sheri covers many subjects in her post including the freedom to dance, dance on reality TV, and joyful expression. “Does the world acknowledge the importance of dance? Probably not. Is the world in love with dance? I think the answer to that is definitely yes.”
Last but not least, Kathy Blake, Suzanne Blake Gerety, and Liz Calabria of DanceStudioOwner.com share their thoughts on video.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.