An dance blog website called Dance Advantage has created a virtual event called “Why Dance Matters“.  The event is running from April 12th to May 3rd, which spans the time when International Dance Day (April 29th) and (American) National Dance Week (April 23rd to May 2nd) are held.  This particular event asks members of the online dance communities to talk about why dance matters, and so this is what I’m gonna do.

I’ve decided to think about this in two parts – there’s why dance matters to me specifically and there’s also why I think dance matters in general.

Speaking personally, the first response I had to the question of why dance matters is that dance makes me feel good – physically and emotionally.  Bellydance in particular has had a profoundly positive effect on my self-esteem and how I view myself in relation to my body.

But that’s not the whole story.  It also challenges me, and gives me the opportunity to learn on an ongoing basis and at my own pace.  I like learning new things, I like ‘exploring’ – I always have. I’ve found that I particularly enjoy learning to do new things with my body, it’s like learning to have super-powers – the absolute delight when I finally get my body and mind to work together to do a movement that had evaded me until then.  I do enjoy ‘book learning’ and challenging my mind – but (for me) that’s something far more common – school and work have almost always focused far more on the mind than the body; dance touches a completely different realm.

Why do I think dance matters in general?  Well, as I see it we are far more than minds in jars.  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.

When we dance and when we learn to dance our mind and body have to learn to work together.  Dance, in this sense, can unite.  I believe the desire for this unity runs deep. Dr Oliver Sacks tells, in his book Musicophilia of how hard-wired we are to appreciate rhythm.  More parts of our brain are occupied by music than language, and dancing is how we, humanity, like best to appreciate music.

Dancing persists over time (despite being frowned upon, and even banned by the authorities) and, as best as I can tell exists in all culture – the forms may be different and they change over time, but the desire to move to some sort of music seems to be primal.  And as much as it is primal, it is also innately human  (animals do not have a sense of rhythm, or to be more technical they do not possess an “auditory/motor correlation”).

Why does dance matter?  The desire to dance in some way, be it tapping your toes to the rhythm or tango, is a fundamental part of being human.

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