Today is International Dance Day 2018, a day to celebrate the power and pleasure of dancing.
For as long as I can remember, dancing has been my escape, my entertainment and my education. I was fortunate to be taken to ballet classes as a toddler and was always the child that didn’t want to go home after the final curtsy. Ballet, tap, modern, jazz, contemporary. I lived for the next dancing opportunity while I was growing up and probably felt most alive when I was in class or on stage.
I still feel more at home in a dance studio than anywhere else. Whether I am taking class, practising by myself, or teaching, everything else is forgotten once I am at the barre or flying around the space. In fact, teaching helps me delight in dancing even more as it is all about sharing ideas, experiences and enjoyment with others in the hope that they will love to dance too!
“… we must always remember to dance a little every day.”
Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company discussing International Dance Day 2018
As someone who has never been the most confident person in a “normal” room, I wholeheartedly believe that dance has a role to play in making the world a better place to be.
Admittedly, dance training can be infuriating and intimidating because nothing is ever enough. Theatrical and commercial styles demand that we strive for a level of perfection that is essentially unattainable. We want to jump higher, be more flexible, balance for longer, feel stronger.
Perseverance and passion are essential for success in dance – and in life as well. However, all dancers must come to understand that no matter how much importance we place on a flawless performance, it is the trying that really counts because there will always be something else that can be improved upon.
Indeed, dance continues to remind me that it is crucial to strive for progress rather than perfection in everything I do, both in and out of the studio.
More generally, dancing has so many benefits that we could probably spend the whole day just listing them. After all, dancing is a holistic activity that has the potential to enrich the physical, social and creative health, and personal well-being, of individuals of all ages.
Dancing can help us to stay fit and healthy because it builds strength and endurance and increases aerobic fitness. It also improves coordination, agility and flexibility and can lead to better balance and spatial awareness – which can be particularly advantageous as people age.
Beyond the physical benefits, dancing will significantly improve mood – it heightens happiness, soothes sadness, alleviates stress – thereby enhancing our general and psychological wellbeing. Participating in dance activities can help individuals to develop better social skills and cultivate greater self-confidence and self-esteem. Furthermore, dancing nurtures creativity and fosters an appreciation of music, art, movement and performance.
Astonishingly, many governments, politicians and institutions across the world still do not seem to have properly recognised the cultural and educational value of dance participation and appreciation. Funding is repeatedly cut, and Dance is forced to fight for its place as a legitimate academic subject within education systems.
That is why today, 29 April, is such an important day. The annually observed International Dance Day (or World Dance Day) is a day designated for the global celebration of dance. The day was introduced in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) International Theatre Institute and is promoted by the International Dance Council (CID).
The date coincides with the birthday of French dancer, ballet master and dance reformer, Jean-Georges Noverre, who was born on 29 April 1727.
Every year, an influential member of the global dance community is asked to write an International Dance Day Message. This year, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the International Theatre Institute and recognise dance as cross-cultural and international, there are five message authors – one from each of the UNESCO regions.
International Dance Day 2018 Messages:
Africa: Salia Sanou, Burkina Faso
Arab countries: Georgette Gebara, Lebanon
Asia Pacific: Willy Tsao, Hong Kong, China
Europe: Ohad Naharin, Israel
The Americas: Marianela Boan, Cuba
The International Dance Council promotes International Dance Day to urge people who may not normally engage with dance to endeavour to do so, as well as to persuade governments all over the world to provide a proper place for dance in all systems of education.
Dancing has shaped me as a person. It has helped me find my niche as a writer, connecting me to incredible people all over the world. It has informed my academic interests and accomplishments, inspiring my studies at both the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the Royal Academy of Dance. It has been a constant. A certainty. A necessity.
As a dance writer, and dance teacher, I believe that everyone ought to have the chance to learn to dance, and to watch and appreciate dance performances.
Dancing has always made my world better so it should really be no surprise that I support efforts to help the world make dancing better!
Georgina Butler is a journalist, a dance writer and a dance teacher who specialises in teaching classical ballet. She previews and reviews productions, writes features and interviews people from the world of dance.