It is natural to want to dance and move whenever we hear music. With the drum beat of a military march, we want to march in time; the smooth circles of a waltz have the power to make us feel like twirling forever; and a lullaby makes us lilt our bodies into sleep. Dance is a natural expression and is a natural response to music that is heard externally or sometimes but rarely, it is in resonance with the sounds of inner joy, to which only the individual is privy.
Most people wish to dance, or enjoy dancing. It is a feature in the life of most people throughout the world who reveal the differences in their culture through the different types of music and the different styles of dance movement they develop in their traditional art. There is a different between the dance of a country barn dance or western line-up with a country band and the rap dancing with its accompanying intonation and sounds; between the tap dancers metallic beat to a popular tune and the ballet dancers soft pointed feet describing the patterns of a classical piece; the passionate guitar and strong heel beats of a Spanish flamenco and the smooth swirls of an Austrian circular waltz to the strains of a violin.
Music provides the powerful influence which we seek to express in movement and dance. In addition, if our own emotions are moved, we can convey how we feel by injecting our emotions into our physical movements. If music uplifts us, we may dance but wish we could fly and the best we can do is to raise our arms and elevate our bodies from the floor as best we can. If the music on the other hand is sombre, we would rather dress in garments of grey and drop our heads to respond in heavy deliberate movements to show what the music intends.
For the professional dancer, it is music which dictates the mood and demands that a dancer surrenders his body to that music, not just for his own pleasure, but for the sake of a wider purpose. Then the dancer surrenders to music as if it were the conductor, as he seeks to make his body its complete or final instrument .The dancer can only surrender to the music if he wishes his body to serve to express its influence. To dance to a rhythm without conscious thought is a pure reaction – it is not an art.
Dancers are agents of the music – there to express something of the spirit of his inspiration of the composer. If we like the music we are asked to dance to, there is an easy relationship and harmony between the music, the source of it and our bodies. It is all in tune and the dancer can add the ingredient of his own intelligence and pour his feeling through his body language. If we are not attracted to the music then the dancer is a mere puppet. In the future, to use a dancer without him having conscious desire to express the music will be seen as dancer abuse! It is not a true and fine example of the art form at all unless music and dancer are as one.
If we hear discordant sound and it is the fashion to move to it, one must be very skilled or insensitive or perhaps both in wishing to express chaos and discord. Life’s real discordant notes are only too well known in the reality of living without having to bold type it all. Modern times are difficult with little rhythm, melody or harmony in any popular music.
In discothèques the lighting makes jagged vibrations through the chaos and to a dancer who is sensitive to the loveliness and the harmonies of inspired music, it creates an atmosphere which is unintelligent, purposeless and insane. There can be no reason why such occasions are not banned because of the noise, so as to preserve the health and the hearing of everyone concerned. The brains of all who participate are damaged – to what extent, only the future will reveal. Participants do not deserve the name dancer but often are enslaved by drugs and the hypnotic drum beats.
Modern music is not harmonious. Therefore a dancer’s body must become jerky and strained, stretched to an extreme tension, tested beyond its inherent strength, making demands which are acrobatic, exaggerated, unnatural and unattractive in the main. Beauty is the ingredient which is neglected, even forgotten. And in judging the result, anyone witnessing such movement to such music may gasp at techniques which extend the boundaries of body capabilities – but which leave the audience empty.
Music is best understood as food for the soul. This was and remains the classical approach to the art which was dedicated to either the purpose of delighting the listeners, telling a story, honouring a greater person, state, ideal , expressing a nation’s spirit, or in spiritual dedication to religious worship and the glories of God. Music was an expression which served to enrich the listeners. At its best and most powerful, music can stir the spirits of thousands, who for a time experience the pleasure of a feeling of unity beyond the diversity in human life.
The dancer depends upon the music. Dance is music made visible!
Dance has always been a part of human culture and will no doubt remain so. In past eras, as in ancient Egypt, dancers were trained in the temples, dedicated to the gods, their art was sanctified and they were used within the powerful ritual which were used in ceremonies and outer rituals to involve the people and to amass group thought in prayer. In the ancient Indian traditions the temple dancers held also a place of respect and their music and dances were dedicated to the gods.
In ancient Greece and in fact, in all ancient civilizations, it was the same – there were the temple dances and there were the folk dances of the general populace.
In our western culture we have no such equivalent system which allows each to have its place. In fact in our Christian religion and worship there is no place and never one has been considered, for dancing.
So in our way of life, we are the poorer. We only have resort to the dancing of the masses – that which only expresses the spirit of the people – and this is always uninspired. But we have our classical music which has served to inspire many millions of people throughout the world. So in this, we have a ‘conductor’ but where are the dancers who can make their bodies instruments capable of expressing the exquisite sounds and spirit of such glorious arrangements of notes? There are thousands of dancers with skill but have they attunement to the spirit to fulfil the needs of the art?
There are many musicians trained in classical music and many dancers trained in classical dance. Surely they can support one another to act as twin arts in creating something really beautiful?