American Dancer, Ruth St. Denis Was Right
“I see dance being used as communication between body and soul to express what is too deep to find words [for].” — Ruth St. Denis, American dance pioneer
Perhaps, the opening line above is too much poetic sentiment for the average reader, but to the real dancer, it speaks to the very crux of not only what dance should be, but also to what most of dance, sadly, is not. The Dancer’s Standard Dictionary defines dance as: Gerund - noun / verb - infinitive; dance: 1. n. / a series of movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music; 2. v. / to move rhythmically to music, sometimes following a set sequence of steps; 3. gnd. / exaggerated natural movement done to a specified [musical] rhythm, timing, and/or styling. In essence, dance is movement.
Movement as it applies to dance is a physical change or development of the body, and inherently bears no relevance or relationship to sound. When one thinks of communicating, some sort of vocal or auditory exchange typically comes to mind. The dancer’s medium of movement is mute in this traditional sense; that is, that there is no sound in body movement. Yet, as Ms. Denis exclaimed, dance is a form of communication.
It is not so abstract or difficult to understand dance as communication when it is thought of in terms of the dancer communicating a feeling, idea, or story to an audience. Yet, this was not what the visionary was referring to. Ruth St. Denis truly knew dance. She understood dance as a form of communication; not only between dancer and audience, but between the movement and the dancer. She understood that dance is firstly an innate, silent, that is… non-auditory, conversation between the movement and its creator. The dancer feels something, typically but not always from an outside stimulus (music), then silently asks the body if it understands this feeling. The body responds with a movement, and the dancer breathes in and reacts to the movement in an attempt to silently thank the music for answering the question. This silent conversation between music, body, and movement may be one of intense sadness, intense love, anger, confusion, inquisitiveness, or wonder. An almost limitless superfluity of feelings and emotions, sometimes which leave a person at a lost for words, may be discovered and played out within the movements of the dance with perfect clarity and understanding.
Ms. Denis knew something that has become one of the most prominent and most often repeated teachings of the DanceKinesis programs...,
“Dance is not Steps; it is the Movement between the Steps”.
“Body movement”, “natural movement”, and “feeling” are the current buzz words in dance. Though this is true for all dance, of course, here, we are speaking more directly to partnership dancing. Sadly, many persons use these buzz words for the wrong reasons. They are great selling points for teachers wanting to drum up new business or beef up the old. The words sound exciting. They bring something new to the business, and to the art. They offer a ‘New and Improved’ version of the old product. This has been a sales tactic used by most manufacturers and retailers for decades.
DanceKinesis / TangoKinesis, by their very names, are movement specialists. Dancing by “the natural laws of movement and energy”, and “natural body movement” have been the foundation of what we do and what we teach since the mid to late 1980s. We understand and teach what Ruth St. Denis knew decades ago… that dance is a conversation, often inexplicable with words, between the body and the dancer that an audience is invited to join in on.
As always, please write us at DanceKinesis; share thoughts, viewpoints, and questions. We are always happy to hear from you. Join us here for the blogs, or at www.dancekinesis.com for other info, lessons, and events. Join us at www.dkdancetravel.online for our tango cruises and Ballroom/Latin camps and marathons.
See you on the dance floors!