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.


Preface-Chapter 1*

22 Nov

*from the book “Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement” by Gerald Jonas

Dancing has been a part of me for most of my life. For me, it is life. I started to learn ballet at the age of 3 and continued it until the age of 14. When I reached high school, I tried to venture into other dance forms, engaging in cheer dancing and modern jazz. I was so fascinated with modern jazz but I started to miss ballet. I went back to it and continued my formal training again in both classical and modern ballet when I was in 3rd year college. Since then, I became a professional dancer and did not attempt to go out of my “comfort zone”. I always relate my experiences in life to dance. It greatly influenced my decisions, actions and behavior that I consider the world as my stage and everyday is a performance.

How to do a pirouette turn

Dance was mysterious. I agree with the author of the Preface when she said that. I can relate with it because I experienced the things that she wrote about it. My ballet teacher always said that you can never get a perfect pirouette turn. Even the professional dancers cannot keep a perfect turn consistently. There are going to be times that he/she won’t be able to do a triple, quadruple or the most number that he/she can do. It always take time and patience from a dancer to execute a clean and “perfect” turn. And when you push yourself to your limit, you can never have your desired outcome. You might fall out of balance or even injure your feet. There will be serious consequences if you got the timing wrong. Dance always has that rule.

I also agreed with the author when she said “Dance, like language, is found in all human societies. And like language, dance has power.” Dance has influenced a lot of people from different societies. It creatively describes the values, aesthetics and mores of a culture. This phrase is somehow related to “Actions speaks louder than words.” The body is the most effective vehicle for people to communicate with each other. The power of every movement describes every fiber of the being and the raw emotions that are being portrayed are what captivates and influences the audience. Dance is the universal language of the human soul. And to understand this language, people must open their selves to the culture from which dance came from so that we can gain insight into it. But we should also consider that even if it is a universal activity of humans, it does not play the same role in every culture. The meaning and importance of dance to a culture still depend on the mores, values and beliefs of a society/culture.

Folk dance and culture of Rajasthan.

Chapter 1 talks about the power of dance, how it defines the culture and reflects their beliefs. The author mentioned that dance is linked to cultural identity that when people disagree about the meaning and value of specific dances, they get confused and may lead to contempt, anger and violence. This shows that dance is one’s own opinion, too personal, that everybody should respect them. After reading the chapter, I realized that the Western culture had a great impact on the revisions of the dances. Due to their religious belief, the societies that they have influenced changed immensely. Their strong belief that dance shows paganism or worshiping the pagan gods showed that they don’t value the essence of the dance but the political aspect of it. And many traditional dances have been wiped out of that society’s history and the people are confused of their identity already.

Dance also has the power to serve as a rallying point for social consciousness. Because words can cause too much damage, societies have resorted to movements that will voice out their opinions. Dance is such a powerful instrument for change.

Action speaks louder than words.

Dance is not only a series of steps or movements, it is more than what the human mind can comprehend. Every movement defines the identity of a culture. It can also be a tool for expressing your self. Dance is a creative way of showing the history of a society. It is not only limited to those who have a background, it is for everyone. Dance changes with every body that dances, it changes with the time, the country, even the weather. It does not have one history but many.

The power of dance is to challenge the people to shape their own society and culture.