Why Dance Matters.

So we're sitting with a friend at a local restaurant following a meeting about promoting arts education in the city. We had just completed a tour of our local theater, discussed its history and future plans. We sat there completely thrilled; our hearts were full, and we were living off the energy from everyone in the group and their dedication to the arts in our city.

A man comes over and introduces himself. Turns out, he is a supporter of the theater. This made us very happy until he asked: "Now, what is it you do?" We said, "Dance instructors!"

But then he said this.

"And you can make a living off of that?"

We answered, "Yes. We can. We do. And here is why we should."

Before what we do can be considered a "legitimate way to make a living" (in the eyes of society), society must understand why dance matters. While this topic feels so immense to me, I will try to put all of my thoughts into words.

CONCEPTUAL BLENDING

We read Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: How Creativity Works. In this book, he captured our feelings about dance when he discusses conceptual blending. With conceptual building, there is an overlap of seemingly unrelated concepts; the rules of one place or thing are applied in another sense. He uses the example of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Harold has this magical tool that can create mountains for him, but when he travels over the mountain, gravity still applies. Children are geniuses in the way they can conceptually build imaginative thoughts with the real world.

How does this relate to dance? And why does it matter?

Conceptual blending leads to new ideas, and to insights. This mental operation is key to problem solving, thinking outside of the box, creating new products, building a stronger world.

Dance teaches conceptual blending. Dance teaches students to use their brains and bodies to trespass on the standard boundaries of thought. Instead of this way, let's try that way. Instead of staying inside the lines, let's think of other ways to achieve a goal. It's a physical and mental connection that brings together various concepts and thinking.

Dance blends other areas of studies such as physiology, anatomy, math, linguistics, rhythmic analysis, theater, psychology and many more into an understandable challenge: To create; to train; to focus on the edges of our thoughts and push ourselves further. The students aren't overwhelmed by all of these separate concepts being thrown at them, they only know they are learning and dancing! As time progresses, children show acceptance and deep understanding of separate ideas coexisting within dance.

Do you know how to tell the story of a person's life through dance? Do you know how to explain the physiology behind our bodies systems? Can you express every emotion without even saying a word? Can you manipulate rhythms, defy gravity, push the limits, and dedicate your focus on various avenues (instead of just classifying a thought and leaving it there).

TIRELESS WORK ETHICS

Dancers have an incredible work ethic; an ability to stick with a problem until it is solved. Dancers will keep trying and trying until they have accomplished something new, found a solution to the problem, corrected and perfected what they are working on. Dancers cling to new ideas, new challenges and they think about an issue from every angle.

"Try it this way; move your foot a little to the left; let's try something completely different and crazy, but hey, it might work." Dancers are not afraid to fall and get back up, to fail and try again. This is called grit. And it is a characteristic trait found in most who have been trained or exposed to dance.

LETTING GO

Dancers are also taught to let go. Jonah Lehrer said it best:

"There is something scary about letting ourselves go. It means that we will screw up, that we will relinquish the possibility of perfection. It means that we will say things we didn’t mean to say and express feelings we can’t explain. It means that we will be onstage and not have complete control, that we won’t know what we’re going to play until we begin, until the bow is drawn across the strings. While this spontaneous method might be frightening, it’s also an extremely valuable source of creativity…the lesson about letting go is that we contain our own creativity. We are so worried about playing the wrong note or saying the wrong thing that we end up with nothing at all." Through dance, students learn to trust their inner voices and inner creativity.

Students from all backgrounds, even those who consider themselves to be "logical-math people" and also describe themselves as "not very creativity at all" have learned to override that terrible thought of not being creative and trust their inner ability to think outside and beyond. They learn they can apply the lessons they've learned to dance to solving an equation by moving one factor a little to the left, or on the other side (just like in a dance). They can remember the line-up of the planets by relating that to a line-up in dance.

To truly embrace this, society has to LET GO of the thought there "there are creative people and there are non-creative people." Not so. We all have the potential and ability to be creative, right there in our brains. I am simply using dance as the method (in this piece) about bringing the creativity out and teaching students to trust it. But really, creativity is about problem solving and producing and being communicative in various ways.

So why does dance matter? Because...

It teaches students to be problem solvers."If their feet aren't in the right place, at least their hearts are.” - Christian M. Chensvold

It teaches students to trust their abilities. "Let us first teach little children to breathe, to vibrate, to feel, and to become one with the general harmony and movement of nature. Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child.” - Isadora Duncan

It teaches them to think outside of the box. "With the pride of the artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists the small trumpet of your defiance." - Norman Mailer

The goal of our education system and the goal of our society should be to raise strong individuals with creative ideas, with the drive to be innovative, and possessing tireless work ethics to make things happen. Dance teaches and emphasizes these qualities. Dance also keeps a community inspired and pushes the community to think, create and reach new levels.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "The imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre or bad things, but his judgment, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects…. All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering.”

Now that's important.

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