In the ancient past, dance was not a purely recreational activity. It arose to meet the needs of tribes, armies, villages, communities; to band people together, to transcend the hardship of daily life.
We now know that Dance is both an ancient practice and is also good for us. There are multiple reasons to dance, but here are 5 to begin…
We Crave Community
People have been dancing together before they were talking together. Dancing is as old as our species, Homo Sapiens, which means that it has endured this long for a reason. It has to be taken seriously as an important component of what binds people in groups. And being drawn together has been what has allowed humans, not the biggest and strongest species on the planet, to grow and thrive.
The Covid pandemic has taught us that isolation and loneliness are a disaster for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. We need each other. We need to find meaningful ways of being together. And dance is one very good way.
We Want to Play
It’s fun, it’s play, and if you can get over your own inhibition, it doesn’t matter. A lot does matter, whether we like it or not. Having to earn a living, taking care of our health and wellbeing, our dependents, life can feel, well, a bit ‘heavy’. Children have playgrounds to play; where’s the adult playground?
Sport and hobbies are good but can be competitive and require being taught. Pubs and nightclubs are fun but have a drug and alcohol element which is not for everyone. Free dancing with others, no goals, no hierarchy, is a great place to play. And it doesn’t matter! There are no consequences.
And as it turns out, it’s actually good for us!
We Need Freedom
People report feeling free and liberated when they dance; the practical needs of life’s demands are paused; in dance there is no ulterior motive – each movement is gratuitous. For this reason, dance creates a magical space in which something unthought of and full of wonder can take visible form.
And then there’s the ‘patterns’ that we develop over time: of thinking, of feeling, of physical movement, of social relating.
Enter dance: because it is immediate and spontaneous, it unravels the mental, emotional, physical and social habits that we develop. By dancing freely, we can break rules; our rules about who we should be in the world. Because each gesture and posture evokes a state of mind, a greater repertoire of movement corresponds to an expanded inner repertoire of experience.
The Wholistic Workout
It’s a mind, body and soul thing… and let’s just add the word ‘feeling’ in there. Very little of what we ‘do’ or how we experience ourselves, is so deeply inclusive of the many layers of being human as dance. And this relates to point number one: it is probably why it has endured since beginning of human time, and add the social dimension, it’s got big appeal.
We find ourselves at this moment in human evolution in a pandemic of poor mental health. And yes, it may be true that it’s partly because we are able to name and talk about these things. But somewhere along the line of becoming Western, civilized, money-orientated, pious, mind-centred and modern, we lost our ability to be spontaneous and joyful, and forgot how doing this together matters.
Beyond the Personal
Dancing together generates a way to connect with a bigger picture of ourselves other than how we are defined through our own biography and immediate circumstances. Rhythmical uniformity puts the rational mind to sleep and generates psychophysical changes.
We can find that we are no longer controlling our movements, making the dance happen, the dance happens to us; we are danced and we get to experience ourselves as boundless energy, ecstasy in motion.
There Are 5 good reasons to dance … watch this space, more coming your way!