One of the gifts on our spiritual journey to seek is increased wonder and awe for the miracles and magnificent things on display for us every day. I have often marveled with you on this blog at the miracle of music, that mysterious and glorious faculty of our soul that seems a gift uniquely human. Animals neither compose nor play instruments or sing melodies for their own sake. Perhaps a mating call, or some rhythmic sounds from animals may sound like a song, but it really isn’t a song, just a signal.
Another great and uniquely human faculty is the ability to dance. What a magnificent interaction of the body and soul. What a powerful and yet mysterious capacity! There are simple dances for fun and to “grove to the music.” There are the close and tender dances of courtship. There are the line dances of large groups having fun together. There are the skilled dances of everything ranging from square dances to ballroom dances. There are highly artistic dances of ballet and other artistic expression.
Such grace, such skill, such fun, and such mystery. What is is about our soul that wants and needs to dance? Where does this universal aspect of every human culture come from? Somewhere deep in the soul. Somewhere in the mysterious interconnection of soul and body. Yes, in our depths a longing, a yearning , a joy, a concern, something stirs, and the miracle of dance comes forth and the soul leads the body.
A few quotes on Dance to frame our thoughts:
- There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good. ~Edwin Denby
- We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. ~Japanese Proverb
- Dancing is like dreaming with your feet! ~Constanze
- Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn. ~Terri Guillemets
- Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made. ~Ted Shawn, Time, 25 July 1955
- To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. ~Agnes De Mille
- Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking. ~John Wain
- Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing (Ps 30:11)
- Let them praise his name with dancing, (Ps 149:3)
I realize that not every Christian is thrilled with dance, thought that is not the Catholic instinct. It is true some dancing is directed to lustful ends. But proper dance reverences the body and celebrates its glory. Lust sins against the body and reduces it to one thing. I also understand that not all dancing is edifying or beautiful, and that tastes will vary.
But in the end, the act of dancing is a deep mystery, an expression by the body of a movement of the soul. Whether it is longing or joy or just a connection with music and others. Do not miss the unique wonder that dancing is.
Having written this, I have an admission to make: I do not dance. But I will admit why. I am too proud. I cannot be forgetful enough of myself, and am too concerned with what others might think of me to dance. For a brief time I did learn to Square Dance, but that is a very controlled dance and has lots of rehearsal. But when the line dances are called at parish functions, my pride rears up and says, “What if you look silly? What if you make a wrong move? Yes, pride. Instead of dancing and having fun, I am outside myself, looking at myself and worrying about how I look. Maybe some day, when I am more humble, the dance floor will find me. For now, I am content to sit sidelined and ponder the magnificent mystery of the dance.
Here is a video of a simple idea writ large. A man travels the world with a simple version of the snoopy dance. And nowhere does he go that people can’t instantly relate. There is something universally human about dance.
And here is one of my favorite dance scenes from the movies, With Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. ~Faith Whittlesey