the soul of dance…

Is it dance which influences the soul of a people, or is it the soul of the people which influences dance?

I was watching yet another of my dearly cherished dance flicks this past weekend (I don’t care if they’re bad, if there’s dancing, I want to see them!) and it struck me… there are very distinct differences between the culturally-bred dances of each of the major “races” across our wild planet.  Without editing for being too (forgive me!) politically incorrect, let me share my musings…

(c) Alice Walker

Caucasians seem to be, as a general rule, the most uptight, rigid, socially exacting people on the planet.  They have had, over the centuries, the least amount of suffering of anyone; and yet instead of that breeding joy, passion and a thrill to live life, it has bred egotism, superiority, and martyr complexes unlike the world has ever known.  And their dances? Minuet, Waltz, Ballet… just to name a few.  Beautiful, precise, elegant and… yes, often Cold.

So then, take others – Africans have been stolen, enslaved, and suffered every other possible destruction and racial raping that could possibly happen both in the United States & across the globe.  And yet they celebrate, they sing… and boy do they dance!  The tribal drumming and dancing of the African nation finds the warrior heart of the people and wills it to live viciously in every single moment.

The Latin people have been oppressed; they have been shunned, struggled under dictators and abused by their countries and any other country with a need for “cheap labor”.   And what do we have from them?  The Tango, Salsa, Pasadoble, and a collection of other ‘dances’ that have no name, but all of which convey the passion, the BEAT of the Latin people.

Native Americans have their spiritual dances, East Indians have their haunting music with their cymbals and fascinating flexibility, even Middle Eastern cultural dances convey a deep strength and passion behind the movements.

Each of these; oppressed, condemned, destroyed peoples – and they offer dances full of a passionate, heart-wrenching consumption of themselves, each other and the music.  To close your eyes… to hear your heart beat with the pounding of the rhythm… to find that the body moves without will, without provocation, without realization… to *become* the music and soar with it to heights and depths unknown and unseen… THAT is dance.  Not steps, and counts, and precise hand placements and all the rest of it.

So I ask again –

Is it dance which influences the soul of a people, or is it the soul of the people which influences dance?

(Photo credit: Andrew Eccles)


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