To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak. ~Hopi Indian Saying
Did you know that dance is among the oldest forms of artistic expression ? Archeologists have found evidence of man’s love for dance, to express emotion, since the earliest cave paintings. I’m not surprised. Dance is innate within us. It’s among our first impulses as babies. Look at any toddler when you put on music. She’ll instantly begin to move ! I, too, love to dance. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember a time, when I didn’t dance. I can remember myself twirling and dancing when I was as young as 4. Because of this love for dance, it’s still amazing to me that I have absolutely no talent, and even less of a sense of rhythm. I am the equivalent of a tone deaf person who fancies herself a Mezzo-Soprano. But, with every love for the arts, must come patrons. I have learned that I can be a great appreciator, even if I will never be a great dancer.
My daughter, Caroline, on the other hand, is a wonderful dancer. She has been taking dance lessons since her 3rd birthday. And, unlike her beat challenged mother, she can convey rhythm, emotion, grace and skill. In addition to taking both of my children to see the Nutcracker every year, we have gone to Broadway and seen countless musical theatre productions. So, I know it’s not a mystery as to why Caroline understands the undercurrent of dance. She has not only studied, but has been exposed to everything from African dance to street hip hop and classical ballet. This is the first year, in the past 5 years, that she wasn’t in our local production of the Nutcracker Suite. I can tell that she missed being a part of it….despite long rehearsals, aching arches from hours on pointe and crowded dressing rooms, there was a piece of her performances that fed her soul. Dance can do that: it can reach into our very being and release endorphins, as well as self-expression and passion.
One of my favorite hymns in Church is “Lord of the Dance”. All reference to Michael Flatley and his Riverdance flying feet aside, it’s a beautiful song of reverence and faith. This little known hymn is perfectly sung at Christmastime. While it has never had the popularity of “Silent Night” at church services, “Lord of the Dance” should rightly be sung. It’s a beautiful hymn speaking of God’s place in the world, using dance as the medium. The first verse and chorus are as follows, and are sung to the melody of “ ‘Tis if a gift to simple”:
I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon and the stars and the Sun
I came down from Heaven and I danced on the Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
It’s a wonderful image, isn’t it ? As a traditional woman, who believes in, and loves, the power of dance, I can’t think of a love letter to God that could be more from my heart. Additionally, this hymn captures the essence of the esoteric and reverent aspect of dance. In Yoga, the Asana of “the Pose of the Dancer” is, understandably, one of my comfort poses. Not only is the pose a wonderful method for practicing disciplined balance and for stretching out one’s upper back and hips, but the asana itself invokes the spirit of the dancer within each of us.
I have a challenge for everyone this holiday season: dance. Don’t worry about what you look like. Don't worry if it's not the Tango. I seem to channel “Elaine” from the infamous Seinfeld Christmas party episode, and her jerky, frenzied motions. But, the fact is, she loved it. And, so do I. Dancing releases tension and can create an extraordinary sense of well being.
Just take my advice: don’t dance in front of your teenagers. They have the oddest habit of turning off the music just when you’re getting going. I wonder why ?
Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. ~Dave Barry