What is the real signification of dance or dancing? Is it a way for the human being to show his body, its capacities, or to express one’s delight, the joy of life?
Compared to other arts such as painting or music, there are not many traces of dance or ways of dancing from the past. Except for some paintings that illustrate dance or through certain kind of music which was meant to be danced, it is difficult to identify with exact precision when dance became part of human culture. Dance did not leave many signs in history, which is quite surprising considering that it is a very physical art. In the dance, once performed, the movement fades and nothing seems to be left. But is this true?
First of all, if we answer our first question, we can say that dance, or dancing, seems to express through movements something that is connected to the person who is expressing it out. However, this connection can be both different and varied according to the individuals. Somebody can simply perform from the outside a movement he was once taught, or because he is asked to do so. In that kind of situation, there is not necessarily any participation on the emotional level, nor the feelings of that particular person, in connection to the performed movement: there is just a will to move the body. To accompany a movement or a gesture with an emotion or a feeling, there must be a connection inside the person between those two parts: the emotion has to accompany the act.
Furthermore, besides emotion and will, there is also thought: what does the dancer think about while dancing? Is he mainly occupied either with himself and the way he technically performs the movements or, on the contrary, does he merely think of those who accompany him in this activity? Or is he mainly concentrating on the music in order to stay in the right rhythm? A person can dance for numerous reasons and be preoccupied with many kinds of inner thoughts or distractions while performing movements. However, one thing is certain: if the emotion and the feelings are not connected to the movements, she or he won’t dance for a long time!
Without love – even the least – for what he does or performs, his movements will be stiff, jerky, and will probably stop very soon. All this tends to demonstrate that, contrary to what one might think at first sight, dancing is in depth based on a state of mind, on an inner attitude.
As a physical art, one could say that physics imposes the rules and plays the leading part. This is not the case. Dance is feeling, emotion, in the form of movement or gesture, in the same way that painting expresses this feeling or emotion in color, or in outer shape, and music in sound. In the case of dance, the problem lies in its way of expression, the physical body, which is denser, much more material than the media used in painting or music. This explains why that behind such an opaque or heavy material, the body, one can easily pretend or hide one’s true emotions or feelings. Even if it will be demanding to dance without real love in the long run, one still can relatively simulate intensity or just show a mere façade.
On the other hand, it is not so easy to show one’s inner state as an artist through dancing. Passing on subtle emotions through the body, or even only through gesture, is more difficult with dance than with painting or music. A painter can use appropriate colors if he wants to express something, even if he himself,experiences it less intensely. The musician can also use certain sounds, such as the low and high register. However, the dancer is obliged if he wants to transmit an emotion or a feeling through the dance to the audience, to live an emotion or a feeling deeply to the end. This is what makes dance very difficult as an artistic discipline, even if it seems to be the opposite at first. Basically indeed,almost everyone can take just a few steps. But this is precisely not really dancing.
That’s why a good dancer is a person who must possess an emotional depth and a very rich, elaborate sentimental life. However, this is not only relatively rare but also, in our time, this lack of inner life is often hidden behind technically very complex, very difficult movements to impress the audience. Colours, costumes, light and music can currently hide the deep truth behind a phenomenon like dance. We see beautiful bodies, muscular strength, or highly varied movements, all forming a show that fascinates our senses and holds us breathless. But this does not necessarily mean that we’re withnessing dance as an art performed to the highest degree. We may not be bothered by this. However, this kind of dance or movement ends up vanishing in time. For, to create a movement that lasts, the deep emotion and feeling must precisely be linked to the action, the gesture.