KISS might have been the final blow that killed dancing as a socially acceptable thing to do. Noting the temporary outcroppings of dances surrounding music videos and movies, we still never fully recovered from the backlash against disco. And only a few years later were computers born, keeping us complacently docile and more susceptible to head bobbing as a form of musical appreciation.
It’s a shame we don’t dance in America. We tend to view it as a spectator sport.
Breaking it down into two categories, we have the art of dance and social dance. Over an extended period of time, I’d argue, social dance has all but disappeared, while perceiving dance as an art form, reserved for those with skill, has grown…mainly through reality show competitions. And no doubt it is an admirable and beautiful thing to behold, but socially, as a nation we don’t embrace dance as something we all can do. Blame it on KISS, blame it on technological evolution; blame it on the Puritans; blame it on a lack of rhythm; whatever the reason, we generally scoff and say, “Yeah, right. No. Way.”
From an evolutionary perspective, dance let us show off to potential mates. Like peacocks strutting their feathers, it displayed physical capabilities and breeding skills, the remnants of which can still be unearthed in dance clubs today, however, online dating is taking the opportunities and fun away. The most colorful peacocks today have 1000+ friends and a killer Facebook profile.
From a social perspective, dance is a way to celebrate, congregate, and enjoy community. Almost every culture in the world has a social dance that is crucial to their heritage. In plenty of places, dancing is still an important way of getting together and letting loose in everyday life. Brazil has it down, as does India. There is no dancing like in a Bollywood film, and it only mirrors the societal importance of dance in celebration for men and women, young and old.
Finally, from the physical perspective, dance is a way to stay healthy and in shape, getting the heart pumping, and the brain lapping up all those feel-good neurotransmitters. Dance helps balance intrinsic muscles and joints, and our mental capacities in ways we now use somatics, pilates, and yoga, to try and do. Researchers at Washington University have even found evidence of dance helping to control movements in patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
So we get it. Dance is good. It all makes sense, but we still can’t help but cringe at the thought of jumping up moving around. Generally, the places one feels safest dancing are – the hidden underground belly of a dance club (with the aid of alcohol or recreational drugs), at a wedding, (with the aid of alcohol or recreational drugs), at home with the XBox game, or regulated to a sterile gym fitness class.
Unfortunately, our motives are deeply ingrained, and “cold dancing” is a tall order. The larger the group of people dancing, the easier you’ll find it to be….that’s why it’s social. Try releasing a hangup or two, grab a bunch of friends, and in the immortal words of Swing Out Sister “Break Out”. It could become infectious. And if it’s not, who cares, you and your friends will feel great. Maybe we need office Spotify dance breaks, where every few hours a song comes on, encouraging movement within the entire office, from receptionist to CEO. I like that picture. You’d be surprised what camaraderie will ensue when dancing next to your boss or the IT personnel. Until then, I dare you to try and bust a move this week.
Next post we’ll look at a dance troupe breaking down the barriers between, social and artistic dance. Until then, I leave you with Bollywood: