The other night as I was preparing dinner for myself and a few friends, I decided to enhance the task with some music. I put my playlist on shuffle and the first song out of the gate was Billy Idol’s “Dancing with myself.” I absolutely cannot hear that song and be still; and with an open kitchen just begging for movement and the audience of Walter the cat that I was pet-sitting, I just couldn’t resist. My cooking chores had to wait a few minutes because I was taking a full force dance break in my kitchen and jigging like no one was watching. Well, Walter was watching and no doubt getting a kick out of my dance skills. If people love funny cat videos, do cat’s love funny people videos? If Walter could record my movements and put it on YouTube for his feline friends to laugh at, no doubt it would go viral.
Following my intermission of boogie, the continuance of my food preparation duties were far more enjoyable from the flow of endorphin’s, the smile on my face and the singing accompaniment resulting from my solo kitchen tango. I know from my experiences with audiences around the globe how healing dance is. I also know that here in the West, we are starved for it. We seem to have this false belief that dance should be a standard set of movements that are dictated by some professional standard and should only be executed by those with know how. This absolute mendacity prevents us from the incredible liberation, empowerment and absolute joy that dancing bestows upon those willing to engage.
Our bodies are designed for movement. When the movement is inspired and propelled by rhythm and song our soul spontaneously integrates with our body and mind and we find ourselves feeling incredibly fueled with a joyous fire. Cultures across the globe understand this on an intuitive level and have had some sort of movement as a fundamental rudiment embodied deep within each society going back to the first people inhabiting the earth. At its core, dance is quite basically a form of expression. As humans evolved, that expression expanded into a non-verbal language of communication for individuals as personal expression as well as within communities as a way to connect with others. Dance was and is a way to celebrate, unite, worship and experience the passages of life kinesthetically.
So if we as humans have evolved with dance as a part of our basic, primal nature, why are there so many people in Western culture that fear dance as if it is the plague? There are simultaneously many societies that have retained their essential need to dance with a complete sense of freedom in expression through this artful language. In Africa for example where music is an omnipresent force, men, women and children dance freely as they move through their daily tasks in addition to their community gatherings and festivals. No one stops to think “how do I look?” Nor do they need any liquid courage to provide them the freedom to move without inhibition. They see their body as an instrument in the music that everyone is participating in creating.
In contrast, much of our North American society has compartmentalized music to be heard by all, but played only by the professionally trained. We have popularized dance as a form of expression reserved only for those that have been formally educated in dance theory or perhaps demonstrate an innate ability for rhythm and movement. Ironically we also categorize music and dance as an “art.” And although we certainly have a wealth of educational resources for edification within the realm of art, it is also a subjective topic that is defined by the eye of the beholder and therefore differs in distinction from person to person. In essence, we have completely overanalyzed dance as well as other forms of music and expression.
Can you imagine anyone within an indigenous culture entranced in the expression of music through dance, or singing or playing a drum, stopping to analyze themselves to evaluate whether their demonstration is acceptable to another? We have so much to learn here in the West, or more accurately, remember. Dance can be both an artful and trained demonstration as well as an impromptu, organic non-choreographed manifestation of the soul’s need to express. In fact, our subconscious mind, which is the human operating system, only speaks a language of metaphor and symbols. In other words, the only way to purge and convey what lies deep within our mind is to communicate in an alternative method such as art, music, and of course – dance.
Once again, our ancestors knew this on a very deep instinctive level and therefore through a community where all were involved in making music, including dance, the minds of that community remained clean and clear, able to think and respond to life from a holistic perspective that included analytics and objectivity as well as emotions and feelings. In essence, dance was a form of therapy and even spiritual expression for early humans and remains such for many indigenous and even modern cultures throughout the world today.
I witness how thirsty Westerners are for dance and musical expression on a daily basis. Once they are provided an unspoken permission to engage in making music, they begin to liberate themselves from the societal bonds of judgment that hold them back. Deeply engaged with the community as a whole, whom have all let their walls of protection crumble, they are exponentially inspired to unleash their inner rhythm and allow their freedom-of-expression flag to fly proudly. By the end of our program, some of the most conservatively perceived people are dancing freely, without concern of who is watching or what anyone is thinking. They are genuinely engrossed in the moment and the music that they are feeling. But it’s not just our programs that I see this occur within; I see it occur in community drum circles, festivals, and yes, even my own kitchen.
When we observe someone liberate themselves through their own expression of dance, we have silent permission to do the same and it becomes contagious. Look at the whole concept of a flash mob. I remember watching a recording of the flash mob that danced to the tune of “I got a feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas on Oprah. I was flooded with a warm fuzzy feeling seeing thousands of people who have never met dance together. My body was overcome with Goosebumps and my eyes filled with tears. It was utterly breathtaking to witness such a demonstration of expression through dance.
So let this little blog be your invitation to freedom. Tap into the power within and conjure up total liberation of expression and do a little jig. If you’re still feeling a bit shy, that’s ok, but at least dance in front of a mirror and share that sweet ju ju with yourself. But if you’re feeling courageous and inspirational, share that fire with someone else and let yourself be observed in your own personal expression of dance. See how it motivates those around you. At the very least, I promise you will make someone smile and smiling alone is scientifically proven to boost the immune system, relieve stress and improve our mood. Can you imagine then the grand scope of biological results from an even grander expressional gesture such as dance? Take a video of your jig, share it with us and enjoy the smile that our video undoubtedly has brought to your face. I think you’ll find it as enjoyable to witness as we do.
In Joy and Rhythm,