Is this dance?


A friend e-mailed me recently with this picture, and asked: is this dance?

Here was my response:

People say that qualities of architecture are dance-like. That buildings, and trees, can dance. Fires can dance. And yes, deer can dance. But the perfomative qualities which we might in a moment recognize in a building, a tree, or a fire are expected throughout any dance presentation.

Dance occurs all over. Where it occurs consistently, people buy tickets. : )

Thanks for sending that, CM.

Over on Bourgeon, there is a simmering conversation on ‘What is Dance?” You can see that here.

There are some good books addressing that question. Copland, et al…

Bit of an academic question, but wrestling the framework of art to the ground can help one appreciate what one sees. And, if you are a practitioner, coming up with more than a knee-jerk definition of what one does can help one get through the writer’s block that occasionally troubles us all.

In case you were wondering – anyone can publish on Bourgeon. I got that question recently. I’m gonna update the ‘About’ page on Bourgeon to bring more clarity there. The submission process is: you wanna write about your work, or something about dance, I’d love to help you share it with the readers.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.

One thought on “Is this dance?”

  1. A friend emailed me the deer photo and asked me if it was dance. He knows that I like dance and that I also like to think (and to argue). However, my smart-ass response, because I was feeling grouchy, was that it was dance if the deer said it was. I forwarded it to you because I thought chances were you’d be in a better mood than me, and you’d give a better answer. I liked your answer very much.

    I got into a debate once with a former philosophy major about what is dance. (Strangely, it was a date). We didn’t come to any agreement about what dance is, of course. But I was able to give the question some in-depth thought. I remember expressing that intention probably had something to do with it, so maybe my answer about the deer wasn’t so bad?

    I think most people would agree that dance involves movement. However, if buildings dance, where’s the movement? I guess in that case the movement is in the way the lines shape the space around them. Anyway, the deer are moving, so that’s a start. Some people would say that dance is composed of pretty movement, but that definition obviously fails. There are ugly dances to be sure! Some might say that dance is what happens when you move on a stage, but that definition also obviously fails. There are dances done alone at home or in a forest with friends, like the deer. Some would say that dance is practiced movement or choreographed movement, but you can definitely improvise dance. Check out the contact jams. No denying that what goes on there is dance. Some might try to define dance as what it’s not – it’s not everyday movement, for example. But everyday movement can be dance under some circumstances. The way I move in the shower could be a dance. But what would make it dance? Intention?

    Can there be dance without intention? Take a mad scientist with electrodes. If the scientist hooked me up and sent electrical impulses to my muscles in such a way as to make me do a pirouette, would that be dance? Do the deer need to know they’re dancing?

    When I was a pre-schooler, I did some doodles that my babysitter said looked like cursive writing. I’d produced something that looked like a lot of cursive ls and es. I was so proud of myself. Writing like an adult! And I was completely devastated when my mom threw away what I’d done. She didn’t recognize it as cursive, or know that I’d taken such pride in those scribbles.

    So what about the intention of the audience? Does an audience have to be primed to look for dance? My babysitter saw cursive where my mom saw the scribbles of a tot. There are days when I walk through the Metro station in dancer mode, just for fun. I don’t guess I look terribly different from others – but my posture is good and I’m especially present in my body as I walk along. Am I dancing? Does anyone see me dancing?

    So are the deer dancing? Really, I don’t know. But somehow, I like to think so.

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