Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Why I dance

The two questions I have answered most frequently since I started dancing full time are "What is contemporary dance?" and "Why did you choose dance?"

The first question usually comes from people whose understanding of dance is confined to some vague ideas of the "known" quantities of ballet and social dance. Contemporary dance has many definitions, I tell them, but I like to think of it as everything that came from Isadora Duncan and onwards, efforts to express movement outside the strict vocabulary of classical ballet technique. It can have the freedom of abstract art. It can explore the imagination like the many musical compositions that do not describe a specific thing. It can also have the authenticity of a photograph or document everyday life.

I am appreciating the second question more and more. It's made me think again about my glib convictions. At first I said simply, "because nothing else feels as incredible as this." But why incredible? The majority of regular folks claim to be stumped or bored by dance performances and dance is supposed to be the hardest art to sell. So why does this form of communication and expression move me like no other, and why would I be so convinced that this is the best way to touch other people?

Above all, dance is an art. There is something in art (as well as philosophy and the pure sciences) of the search to understand humanity and our world. It may be wonderful for people to spend their lives making widgets, stacking up investment dollars (or crying over them as it were today), getting their breasts enlarged or blindly parroting the tenets of some belief. But I know that's not enough. To be awake, to really live, we need to observe, engage and understand.

While I dabble in creative writing and theatre and enjoy those forms very much, there's nothing else like dance. Dance, along with music, is one of the art forms that crosses all boundaries of language or culture. Anyone able to perceive dance should be able to associate with it directly, because physicality is the most important medium through which we experience our world. The body is our instrument for living. Walking, running, jumping, sitting, the feeling of contact with another human or with objects, sensations of warmth or emptiness, the physical manifestations of emotion. Someone listening to music may appreciate the sound but might not relate to its creation because he has never played the piano or guitar. But someone watching dance can relate to jumping, balancing, or the powerful physical expression of joy or grief - much in the way that we are fascinated with the feats of Olympic athletes because we can understand those superhuman exertions in the context of our own, ordinary, bodies.

I am learning each day that dance is an art that requires immense discipline, conviction and pain. So as of 17 September 2008, this is why I still dance.

3 comments:

that ambitious girl said...
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that ambitious girl said...

wow... i only wish i were in singapore. sounds like dance is a reflective and rewarding journey for you. :)

love your writing too!

- kilim

sze said...
This comment has been removed by the author.