In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
Many of my friends are dancers. Many of the people reading this post are dancers. And we know first hand the joy that dancing can bring. Simply letting our bodies link in flow with the music is incredibly liberating – not only do we join with the music, we join with each other and with the dance itself – and, sometimes, it seems that we reach above that and join in the eternal dance, the dance of life.
We need to move, you and I. Any form of movement works. Running, cycling, swimming, walking, yoga, all work. Martial arts like Tai Chi, Aikido, Karate, Qi Gong, Kickboxing all work. All of them wake us from our somnambulistic state and get our hearts pumping, our bodies moving. But where running and walking all seem very individual movements, and martial arts seem competitive, dance (or at least partner dance) is the product of two people working together. (Or, my Morris dancing friends will point out, more than two people).
We see the dance expressed in tribal ritual – where the dance was a place of magic, of an offering to the divine, of a way to create rain, or to celebrate a harvest. We see dance as a way of giving thanks, of expressing joy – and of expressing determination, power, courage – whether the dances of tribal Africa or the stylised haka of a rugby match.
In dance, we surrender to the music and to the rhythm flowing through us. We give ourselves to each other in the dance. We allow something ‘other’ to flow through us and we become part of something bigger – something, if we are prepared to let it, almost spiritual in essence. In fact, scratch that – dance can, when we let it, be a spiritual experience – uniting the dancers with each other, with a shared experience in the room, with the music. allowing something beyond words and beyond thought to flow through us.
I don’t care if you tango, salsa, blues, swing, ballroom, pole, handbag or dad dance. I don’t care if you’re good or if you move like a tank. I don’t care if you’ve got style, or grace, or rhythm, or whether you’ve got two left feet.
I just care that you dance. Your way. Your rules. Your style. But dance.
(or, as Mr Miyage put it in “The Karate Kid” – “never trust a spiritual teacher who doesn’t dance”)