The summer grows hotter. The world roils with the pandemic. I stretch the limits of my housebound sanctuary and, when the mood strikes, I dance.
Visiting our grandchildren last weekend, I was struck by the eagerness of my five-year-old grandson to hold a dance party. Cooped inside due to heat and COVID, regular outdoor activities have been curtailed. I understand the need to move, to shake our legs and shake off the anxiety that rides us like a shawl these days. He found his father’s phone and searched for the music icon. Soon we were covering the carpet with our moves. He extended his field to the couch cushions, the delight of childhood lighting his face and inspiring his steps. Even I felt the tension slough off as I leaned into the music. The solace of dance is ingrained in cultures throughout the world, highlighting ceremonies, reflecting traditions, lifting the dancer from the mundane to the sublime.
The question isn’t why do humans dance. Rather, why don’t we dance more? Once, during my first trip to Spain, I danced on the beach with strangers during the summer solstice. All women, we found in the sharing of movement a solidarity that transcended the artificial boundaries created by language, background, distance. That moment returns to me in times of stress, when the distance between opinions and beliefs threatens to erase our commonalities in favor of division. No, my inner dancer cries. Turn on the music. Let’s dance our way back together.
There are many reasons to champion the dance. From ancient times to modern, we raise our arms and stamp our feet, begging for rain. In the midst of culture wars and disease vectors, we sway in hope of relief. In religious and spiritual venues, we follow the music, bend from side to side, hoping that our belief in the power of goodness will conquer all the ugliness rampant in our society. Today, waiting for a prescription in Walgreen’s, I tapped my foot to the strains of a set that recalled past moments when we simply turned on the radio and danced.
Art, in all its forms, provides an outlet for the anguish and the artful, for the bellicose and the blessed. Dance engages all our faculties. Arms waving, fingers snapping, trunk swaying, toes tapping, and the brain remembering, if not the words exactly, the evocation of senses, of love and longing, of a people recalling that, from earliest times, it was the art of the dance that gathered us together and launched us forward. Hold out your hand. Put on a song. Let’s dance together, joining that circle of hope and reunification. Bring on the rain!