The theme for International Dance Day 2019 is “Dance and Spirituality”.
When I am dancing, I am meditating. I am living in the moment: body, mind and soul uniting to make me “me”.
I have always used dance classes as an opportunity to escape day-to-day concerns and realign myself. My fondness for being productive means that I am inclined to treat myself like a machine, diligently getting things done — but no one can be industrious all the time. Dancing is the equivalent of pressing pause, switching myself off and rebooting in safe mode!
Spirituality is a universal human experience related to our feelings about life and personal identity. It is our search for meaning, and our connectedness to the moment, to ourselves and to the people around us.
Ruth St. Denis (1879–1968) was a pioneer of modern dance – a contemporary of Isadora Duncan — who believed that dance should be a spiritual experience, rather than just entertaining or technically skilful. Although she focused her attention on exploring dance forms from diverse world religions, her interpretation of the connection between dance and spirituality resonates with me.
When I am in a dance class, I am totally in the moment. It is almost a form of meditation because I must be in tune with my mind and my body. I have to be fully present. My mind cannot wander. I am simply focused on making the most of each movement.
After a dance class, I can breathe more easily. Dancing really is the ultimate therapy.
I know I am not alone in feeling like this because many of the dancers I teach express similar thoughts. There is the high of performing, of course, but there is something special about the routine pilgrimage to class. Having that time to yourself, to work on yourself. To momentarily lose yourself and be reunited with the essence of “you” — in a studio full of other people doing the same.
International Dance Day was introduced in 1982 by the International Dance Council to encourage people around the world to share in the magic of dance. It is celebrated annually on 29th April.
As a dance writer, dance teacher, dance student and dance fan, I am thankful every single day for the opportunities that dance has given me to thrive as an individual. Dance can move us, make us think and connect us to ourselves and to others. It can brighten the darkest days and inspire people of all ages to explore their creative and physical potential.
Every year, an influential member of the global dance community is asked to write an International Dance Day Message. The International Dance Day 2019 message is written by Karima Mansour, a renowned contemporary dance artist, choreographer and dance educator in Egypt.
I particularly like this extract from her message:
Dance is a space that allows oneself to connect with their truth, for that, a quiet space is required. Dance allows us to connect and feel whole and it is only in that feeling that we find peace and with peace comes silence and it is through silence that we can hear, listen, speak and through stillness that we learn to dance our truths and this is when dance becomes pertinent.
Movement and dance is where we can move from the vertical to the horizontal, from up to down and vice versa. Movement and dance is where chaos can be created and re-organized, or not. Where we are able to create our own realities and fleeting, ephemeral moments one after the other. Moments that can touch us and remain in our memories, to inspire and change us and others for life. That is the power of true expression and thus the power of dance.
Dance is a healer. Dance is where humanity can meet.
*Photography by Terry Grehan.
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.