Dance as a window into the present

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Dance as a window into the present

I realized one of the most important reasons I love dance last week: I only know how to fully live in the present when I am dancing.

When the rhythm starts and I lock into it, I am not thinking about the past or the present–I’m not sure I am thinking at all. As cheesy as it sounds, I am one with the music. My movements happen in the moment. Now, that does not happen every time I dance. Some days, I am trying out new steps, and therefore thinking very intensely about how the steps go. Or I just can’t seem to get to a place where I let the music in. But when I really listen and let the music carry me, and trust my body to do what it knows how to do, that’s when I dance in the present. And it’s completely fleeting; that’s one of the beauties of dance–it exists only in the moment it exists. Unlike visual arts, the performing arts only last until the final bow; a recording loses the energy and transmission of expression of the live performance.

And even on nights when that doesn’t happen, when I don’t quite lock into the rhythm, the effort to do so is there. And even in the studio, rehearsing, I am practicing in order to be able to dance fully in the present. The simple act of using a metronome, drilling steps over and over, has the end goal acquiring the technique and strength to be the music. And in that way, I see dance as a form of meditation.

Instead of getting overly philosophical or spiritual, I thought I’d share some quotes about dance from writers and philosophers that explain the value of dance and the insane drive of the dancer to dance, though I think only witnessing dance itself can one truly appreciate dance…

“To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but…
If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?”
–Gregory Orr

“How much a spirit needs for its nourishment, for this there is no formula; but if its taste is for independence, for quick coming and going, for roaming, perhaps for adventures for which only the swiftest are a match, it is better for such a spirit to live in freedom with little to eat than unfree and stuffed. It is not fat but the greatest possible suppleness and strength that a good dancer desires from his nourishment – and I would not know what the spirit of a philosopher might wish more to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal, also his art, and finally also his only piety, his ‘service of God.'”

–Frederich Nietzsche

“There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.”
 –Edwin Denby

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. 

–Agnes De Mille

Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order. 

–Samuel Beckett

Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is not mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself. 

–Havelock Ellis

Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery. 

–Martha Graham

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. 

–Maya Angelou

I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what is too deep to find for words. 

–Ruth St. Denis

To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak. 

–Hopi Indian Saying
2018-01-11T21:05:31+00:00

About the Author:

Alice Blumenfeld is a flamenco dancer, choreographer, writer, and educator. She holds a MFA in dance from Hollins University and currently directs Abrepaso Flamenco.

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