Friday, July 30, 2010

epiphany in the shower

The summer course I was teaching at George Mason University ended on Wednesday. Called “Dance Appreciation” the class fulfills a fine arts requirements and students often include those who have danced all their lives as well as people who have never attended a dance class or concert. The diversity of perspectives makes it a fascinating experience. On the first day I ask students to write down their answer – between 2 and 4 sentences – to the question: “What is dance?” I collect these and look at them alongside their answers on the final exam when they are asked to describe at least five different roles that dance can serve. Here is one student’s answer (the same student who had been in Iraq and wrote the review posted 2 weeks ago):

“to act as intermediary between physical and spiritual worlds, which we saw in Native American rituals; to showcase a place in society – as we watched in the courts of King Louis XIV; to tell a story, which we saw in Romantic Ballet – offering ways of showing narrative without speaking words; to teach social graces – as we saw in the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom; to preserve and define a culture as we saw with Flamenco and with Gumboots when people who were disenfranchised used dancing to retain a sense of power and worth; to connect to the spiritual realm – as we saw in the snake ritual in Kerala when the girls destroyed the mandala when they were in trance”

I am posting this today on National Dance Day because people in Congress (Eleanor Holmes Norton) seem to equate dancing with aerobic exercise: Congresswoman Norton states
“National Dance Day and my resolution encourage Americans to live a physically active lifestyle and to have fun doing it. Organizing an annual National Dance Day in the nation's capital and throughout the country is a terrific way to promote fitness.”

While dance does wonders for physical fitness, it does so much more. I remember one Appreciation class at GMU last year when we talked about what makes dance significant and there were conversations about creativity, communication, cultural identity, and Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Then one student raised his hand and said:

“This may be way off. But I think about dancing when I get in the shower [giggles from classmates]. No seriously. It's early in the morning and I'm a little sleepy and the water hits my body and I move. It is this combination of energy and motion and the way I move my body that is unique and this makes me think of dance. It is not only a way of expressing oneself, but also tapping into the essential life force that unites all of us and at the same time makes us distinct. Dance is consciousness.”

1 comment:

  1. Your student was and is "spot on"..... Thank you for continuing to explore the links ( and all else) We all benefit from your fine work, Kate. You are someone who, as Duke Ellington would say, hasn't allowed "your education to get in the way of your learning." Bless you....