Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Further Thoughts on the Last Post

Yes, I mean the YouTube video!

I said that it brings me joy every time that I watch it, and the truth is, it makes me cry every time! Why? I've been asking myself.

There's something about the act of dancing in this celebratory way that taps into an essential joy and energy of the human experience. Now, you can slow dance or you can watch an interpretive dance that is haunting and beautiful--but I'm talking about the kind of dance that seems to spring out of a full heart or is a spontaneous expression of exuberance! Even though I know these steps have all been carefully choreographed, there is a freedom and a wonderfully expressive energy that they embody. I am moved by this musical and physical expression of sheer human joy.

Maybe part of my enjoyment comes from my own lack of ability to express myself through dance. I've never taken a class, never had the opportunity. And even though I know it's hard work to learn all those steps and make them look natural and free (after all, I see my own kids struggling to learn several new routines every show), I still think it must be a blast once you really know the dance (and that is what my kids tell me too!). It seems like a great accomplishment to be able to "join in the dance" with others--individual, yet part of a greater whole. Even the expression "join the dance" implies a choice to celebrate, to acknowledge the essential rhythms and joys of life. It's sad to think of someone unable to join in the dance.

I think of the Easter Vigil at church. Every year, there is such resurrection joy in the air that grown men and women get out of their seats and dance (think "skip") down the aisles with their little children--because the joy of the moment just begs for some bodily response! I loved watching the responses of the bystanders in the video: so many of them "joined in" by swaying or bobbing or boogy-ing along with those who knew the steps. It makes me think of so many little toddlers, whose natural, uninhibited response to energetic music is to start moving!

So is dance the language of joy and celebration?

My college didn't allow dancing when I was there, and I remember discussing with friends that it seemed like the perfect dance would be with our Christian friends, to Christian lyrics, worshiping like the Africans do, with drums and leaps and great energy. So what is the place of dancing in the American church? In the Anglican church, especially?

I don't know that Sunday morning is the time for it, but the Jewish culture certainly knew how to dance in a celebratory way, at weddings and other feasts. Jesus surely joined in the dancing at the wedding of Cana, and we know all about King David dancing in the streets. But they didn't do it in the synagogues, on the Sabbath. Hmmm.

For now, I'm glad at least to be part of a Christian theater group where my kids can sing and dance to fun and wholesome songs, if not explicitly Christian ones. Actually, the whole Broadway genre is another source of joy for me. I think it's the perfect musical art form, because it combines music, words, dance and drama in such a perfectly balanced way. Opera, for example, is all about the music and the voice--lyrics, dance and drama can take a back seat and no one complains. Ballet is a beautiful blending of music, dance and story, but I'm a word person, so I love the additional element of clever lyrics and wordplay, like Cole Porter's, Sondheim's or Tim Rice's. Even the best rock, pop, blues and country are limited in their dance-ability, rarely have lyrics that interest me, and often lack the story or drama component. Hip-hop and dance/pop are all about the beat and not much else!

So there you have it--point proved. To my satisfaction, at least.

Dance: the language of joy and celebration. I like it.

Anybody have thoughts to add?


Janice Skivington said...

I love that video. I want to dance like that too.
so joyous so open in the middle of the public train station like that. So absolutely fun.

Islandsparrow said...

My mom used to teach ballroom dancing but I never learned.I'm trying to talk my beloved into taking dance lessons. I think it would be such fun.

Maybe you should too!

At A Hen's Pace said...


We have talked about a ballroom dancing class...someday...when the timing is right...

Wish we could do one together! And take from your mother when she was younger!