For the dancer the question of why dance matters is almost ludicrous. It’s like asking why eat, why breath, why live! And our answers pour out like a damn breaking through a flood gate, we know why and we can tell you for days… and days… and days 😉
Not like it isn’t a discussion worth having though. And I had the pleasure of looking at ballet through new eyes this past weekend as I took my niece and nephew (ages 17 & 14) to see Paris Opera Ballet in New York. I think POB dancing Giselle and then Pina Bausch is a pretty good introduction to ballet. We sat and had a treat outside Lincoln Center before the performance where I explained to them about what they were going to see and how a live performance worked. I gave them a brief history of POB and the U.S Tour. I also gave them a run down of the storylines etc.
I also explained to them that they didn’t have to like it. I only wanted them to experience it and decide for themselves. I know it’s impossible for us sometimes to realize that not every one likes ballet, but its true, not everyone does. Well, I don’t like hip hop or belly dancing, I don’t even like a lot of ballroom. That’s my preference. I don’t understand it, I don’t feel it, I don’t like it. And some people will feel that way about ballet. It’s okay. Ballet will still live and we can all still exist peacefully.
But I did want them to taste it, to see it, to give dance a chance. Why? Because dance is a doorway into the arts and the arts are a doorway into experiencing humanity fully. There are all kinds of art and we can partake in quite a few, we might even find some talent or skill, but barring complete tragic immobility, we all dance because we all respond to things with movement. Ever watch a baby eating something tasty? They dance in their high chair, I do that same dance for Krispy Kreme donuts. From the inception of life, we move, it is a part of not only who we are but what we are… creatures of movement. And when we begin to embrace creativity, we have to see that human beings have walked and danced across this earth for longer than our brains can comprehend; we begin to see that people, all people, are responsible for so much wonder and beauty in the world. Beautiful, amazing things that make us laugh or cry, that makes us think and feel, that make us remember that art is made by human beings just like us. And as much as there are problems, sadness, tragedy, even evil in this world, art makes the effort to live, to really LIVE, worthwhile.
My niece and nephew seemed to enjoy the performances… they seemed to enjoy our tradition of apres-ballet NY pizza even more though. They asked a few questions and made some interesting observations. Later my nephew asked about pointe shoes so I was able to show them a pair of pointes and explain how they were made and how to use them and the difference with flatties. And they both held the shoes and examined them. Ballet shoes were declared cool.
Why does dance matter? Because having an experience in dance opened a door to curiosity, to wonder, to thought, to learning, and to appreciation. Because we will, all of us, (Carboy, Peanut, Fluffy, and I) have the experience of POB in NY in July 2012 with us forever. Because dance isn’t something only superhuman people do and it doesn’t have to be about perfection or competition. Because dance is an invitation to be who and what we are, human beings who move and who through our movement create joy, sorrow, love, life, and even death. Because you don’t have to be trained to dance to be part of dance. Because dance is only part of the arts and can lead us through movement, music and story to want to know more, to seek out more, to understand more and to live life more fully. Dance matters because you simply cannot separate movement from being human.