Today is International Dance Day 2020, an occasion for people all over the world to express their appreciation for dance. Dancing at home is proving to be an essential way for many of us to keep our spirits up during the current coronavirus lockdown so if ever there was a time to advocate being swept up in dance fever, this is it.
The global dance community unites on 29 April each year to spread the message that dance matters. The aim is to urge governments, institutions and individuals who have not yet recognised the value of dance to do so.
Celebrations take place on 29 April because this date commemorates the birthday of French dancer and ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810). He is famous for liberating ballet from the formality of the dancing in royal courts and developing it into the elegant, expressive and emotive spectacle we know and love today. This made him a dance innovator. In fact, his achievements marked the beginning of efforts to advocate for dance to be acknowledged as a significant art form.
International Dance Day honours all styles of dancing and should be promoted to inspire everyone to get involved in dance. Involvement might mean participating in activities, watching performances, discovering new things about dance, or simply taking a few minutes out of a busy day to enjoy moving your body to music.
For dance devotees, today is an opportunity to engage with others, reflect on our personal experiences of dancing and share our enthusiasm with the world!
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
Dance is a timeless means of cultural expression and a very special art form. It is a universal language that can cross cultural, ethnic and political barriers to bring people together – whether we are participating or watching.
Dancing can positively impact our lives by providing an improvisational and accessible way to socialise, exercise and feel good. From an educational perspective, dance is pre-verbal and benefits children’s physical and cognitive development, alongside emotional maturity. For individuals of any age, it teaches focus, creativity, resilience, and an enjoyment of all art forms. It can also encourage an interest in countless other disciplines: history, sociology, psychology, anatomy, nutrition, literature …
I trained in dance and ballet was always my favourite style! I started classes as a toddler, so I don’t remember life before I danced. However, had I not started dancing at this young age, I believe that dancing still would have found me eventually because moving and writing are how I make sense of myself and the world around me.
For me, dancing has always aligned with learning and having space to be. Much like writing.
I love to learn new things and I have a busy mind, so I generally only know what I think about something once I have “danced it out” or written my thoughts down.
As a dancer, there is always something new to learn and another way to think about something you thought you knew. There is trial and error to experiment with skills so that you can apply the appropriate technique to your own body. All the knowledge acquired needs to be carefully filtered and synchronised so that movements seem effortless. You strive to achieve an impossible ideal for performance, yet you must balance this with trusting yourself enough to actually dance.
As a writer, there is always something new to write about and another way to approach a blank page. There is trial and error to decipher and streamline your thoughts so that you can craft meaningful sentences. Words need to be carefully chosen and ordered so that the writing seems effortless. You strive to create your best work for publication, yet you must balance this with trusting yourself enough to actually write.
Dancing is just steps, one after the other. Writing is just words, one after the other. It’s that easy. And that difficult! The truth is that dancing and writing are both ways of thinking, communicating, doing and being that require perseverance and passion.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Dancing has shaped me as a person. It suits my detail-oriented, conscientious personality and allows me to channel those qualities into something that gives me joy and escapism.
The yearning to dance has motivated me during difficult times and driven me to share the benefits, satisfaction and frustrations of dancing through teaching. And, of course, dance has also inspired and informed lots of my work as a writer.
I am thankful for the opportunities dance has afforded me and proud to promote public awareness of the art form – today and every day.
Under normal circumstances, I would have spent today writing up a dance review (after attending a performance last night) and teaching ballet students in a studio.
Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, I will be social disdancing at home instead.
I have also written a series of International Dance Day 2020 posts for Ballet Papier this month.
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.