LifeWater: Personal philosophies on dance and why I do it
Life-water: Personal philosophies on dance and why I do it
By Danielle M. White
Utah Valley University
“A day I don't dance is a day I don't live.” – Wendy Buonaventura, Serpent of the Nile
Introduction: This paper is divided into two interrelated sections. Part one is an overview of my philosophies regarding dance – particularly Ballet. And part two explores how Ballet has affected me personally, and the reasons why I do it.
• Personal philosophies on dance, in general:
Perhaps, the following quotation sums it up best: “To dance is to communicate. This communication, with or without the intent to perform, may potentially describe the full gamut of human experience” (Eddy, 20). Martha Graham, pioneer of modern dance and choreography, echoed a similar sentiment by saying: “Dance is the language of the soul”. Expounding on that idea, humans, before they learn to speak, are communicating through movement. Therefore, movement is the most natural transfiguration of human expression. And because humans are endowed with the natural ability to both directly interact with and subsequently influence their environment, we long to create and connect. This, coupled with the fact we are engineered to move, makes dance the ultimate metaphor for life. Dance is a way of expressing our humanity.
With that, anyone can teach and/or learn anything through dance, especially through the structured creativity Ballet offers. I have seen this hold true countless times in my personal life, and while teaching young children. Dance, in of itself, has the power to transform an individual; to change lives because it, like no other medium, involves the whole person – mind, body and spirit. And because dance is all encompassing, it is a teacher; a healer; a catalyst; a [sort of] religion ; a unifier; a communicator and a facilitator, as well as an art. Dance is real; therefore it is truth. It is life.
• Why I Dance:
As the introductory quotation says, I dance to live. Dance, particularly Ballet, is my life-water. Without Ballet, I cannot live as fully or totally. Amid the physical challenges of a previously broken back, chronic knee injuries, and starting in my late 20s, there exists this palpable yearning to dance. It is difficult for me, even as a writer, to summarize, in simple words and sentences, how Ballet saves me from myself; how it makes me a holistically better person, and how Ballet has given me my life back. Though, the following excerpt from a journal entry may give readers some insight:
“In the beginning, those around me thought Ballet was a way for me to hold on to a dear friend (because she was a dancer). In reality, Ballet is helping me heal and progress. Ballet is shaping me into a better person. Ballet provides lubricant to my deepest wounds, and fills the starved, neglected parts of my soul with life-water. […] Through Ballet, I’m re-creating a healthier, happier, more whole person by overcoming the self-hate, guilt, pain and fear I have been carrying around for so long. As such, Ballet is also a personal life-saver. […] Ballet is just as much about spiritual renewal and meditation as it is about exercise, recreation, stress relief, and cerebral stimulation. […] With that, I realize that doing Ballet is not just about fulfilling a lifelong fantasy; rather, Ballet is about me. Ballet teaches me important life lessons in a way so poignantly that no other medium has before.”
That said, some – of the many – life lessons I have learned and/or re-learned through Ballet, include:
• There is a difference between good pain and bad pain.
• There are absolutely no short cuts [but]there is joy to be found in the journey.
• “Difficult is inevitably more satisfying than easy” (Reece, 27).
• Fear is a delusion that sabotages us and our relationships.
• We have the tools necessary to heal, progress, create, love, and live.
• “Movement never lies” (Graham, 68).
Summarily, Ballet makes me a better person. It draws me closer to a Higher Power – and to others. In short, I love Ballet. With that, I look forward to eventually becoming a skilled dancer. I hope that, through continued training, time and tenacity, I will be good enough to actually dance; to be in a place where I no longer worry about what I may look like, or what others may think. Moreover, I will do it because I am, at long last, dancing for myself (and not just my loved ones); therefore, my dancing is pleasing and fulfilling. I look forward to learning enough about Ballet technique, and gaining the ability to dance freely and aesthetically – and to help others do the same. With that, I will recognize how Ballet has fulfilled its full potential/purpose in my life.
Carter, Alexandra, and Martha Graham. The Routledge Dance Studies Reader. 1st ed. Vol. 1. New York: Routledge, 1998. Print. Ser. 1.
Evans, Kelly, and Martha Eddy. "An Overview of the Science and Somatics of Dance." Dance Magazine Aug. 1983: 20-28. Print.
Kennedy-Ross, Selicia, and Wendy Buonaventura. Serpent of the Nile: Women and Dance in the Arab World. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Interlink Group, 1998. Print. Ser. 1.