Lord of the Dance*

29 Nov

*Chapter 2 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

Dancing is not only present in the physical world, but also in the ethereal world.

In some cultures, the gods dance. For them, dancing is the way which their gods bestow their blessings. Since people believe that the basic vehicle of dance is the human body, they dedicate every ounce of their energy to become one with the spiritual realm.

These two cultures are what piqued my interest because their society made dance as the central role in expressing religious beliefs:

Shiva: Hindu Lord of the Dance

In India, there are different deities that Hindus worship. There is Shiva, the great Hindu god of creation and destruction. He is represented as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. There are a lot of symbols found on Shiva’s cosmic dance (picture above) and every symbol signifies his power and blessings. Another Hindu god that is closely related to dance is Vishnu, who takes on human form to rescue the world when it is threatened.  His characteristic flute is particularly associated with dance because of the sensual devotional dance that creates music far beyond the subcontinent. Hindus believe that when the gods dance, it is not surprising that dance itself should be considered an offering to them. The Mahabharata is an epic that represents the rituals in the Indian culture.

This shows that the Indian culture is very rich in religious beliefs and people worship their gods through physical means. Since their culture has been following social norms throughout their history (caste system, etc), the people are very particular with their knowledge of the different gods and how to act upon their requests of blessings and abundance. They follow strict rules to preserve their norms and traditions.

South Africa: Zulu Dance Tradition

In Africa, people preserved and extended the religious practices of their ancestors. According to the author, their dances open direct channels of communication to the world of the gods and the ancestors. “Make a god within one’s body.” This idea captivates me because since we were made out of the likeness of God, our bodies are the instruments for worship. That feeling of “trance” can be achieved and when you’re in that state, your mind and soul can take you places.

These two cultures truly embody how the attitude towards the body are powerfully shaped by religious beliefs. Dance had become the center of worship and the people’s role is just to let the body move and show how much your faith is in your religion.

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