October 1, 2007

Spirituality

The Spirit of the Dance


by Charlotte Fairchild

If I were a dancer, I could give you a first hand account of what dance means to me spiritually. I am not, however, a dancer; I do not perform. So how do I know about the spiritual elements of dance?

How do audiences sense the spirituality of a symphony? How do we know there is something spiritual going on as someone leaps, does splits, and shakes to the beat of some rhythm?

The emotional aspect of dance gives it a power that is quite different from other exercises. The laughter and drama sometimes associated with dance touches the core. Not just the soul, but the torso, its health and strength. Perhaps some might find this theory comical, but a dancer feels something, and that something enters the room and touches the audience. Even if the dancer's performance is perfect, if the feeling isn't somehow shared and there is no connection, there is hollowness. On the other hand, when someone dances and there is connection, this makes a difference. Sometimes the connection is in the eyes. Sometimes it happens when the eyes will not make contact, and so the audience longs to make contact. Regardless of how the connection between dancer and audience is made, when it finally happens, there is magic. As a Texas instructor once noted, dance can be other-centered in a way that other exercise forms could never be.

As spiritual beings, what we feel in any activity contains a spiritual element. Dance is for the individual, but also for the collective group spirit. The intent of the dancer is not missed. The communication of the body, mind and spirit is powerful. Going for long without a connection of dance is like going without the connection of sound.

Some people think dance is not a spiritual activity; they see it as sexual or shallow. These people do not realize the joy and freedom - nay, the liberation - that dance can bring to a single soul. The beauty of the body and spirit that is often stolen by exploitation can be reclaimed with dance.

How do I know this? I am an audience of one, and I have danced myself when I was young. Who would not miss those days? My best friend, Florence Seymour, danced in her 90's and competed for awards with Fred Astaire Dance Studios. How else could she live so long?



Charlotte grew up a military child with various travels, has an English BA and counseling M.Div, and was once a chaplain. She lives with her husband and her dog. One of her passions is kudzu, but others include the study of leprosy, belly dancing, life coaching, and NVC. You can read more of her work at her blogs wishlifecoach and Infertility.