Dance for Joy

When I was a child, I delighted in dancing.  Before formal lessons began, I starred in my own living room spectacular.  I’d put on my favourite music and danced.  I cannot say whether I was good or bad and I’m not sure that it matters, because I simply loved to dance – and experienced joy.

Dance psychologist Peter Lovatt describes an encounter with an adult dancer.  When the dancer came into the room, “she looked anxious, tired, and worn down” and her non-dance embodiment matched.[1]  But when he saw her dancing, she was transformed because “she surrendered herself to joy.”[2]  Her entire presence was transformed by dance.  This transformation happens to people from all walks of life and levels of dance experience and skill.  Dance connects the brain and the body and brings the dancer’s total focus into the present moment.  Researchers have examined dance through neuroscience, cognition, biology, medicine, anthropology, and evolutionary theory – clearly dance intrigues many curious minds in a wide range of disciplines.  Dance has the power to integrate the benefits of meditation with movement, which has the power to transform how we show up in the world.

The experience of joy, however, comes from each person’s sense of play.  As humans, we need to play.  It is a primal activity and arose from “ancient biological structures that existed before our consciousness or our ability to speak.”[3]  Defining play, however, is tricky, because one person’s play is another person’s terror or boredom; it is rooted in our emotional experiences and is a state of mind.  For some dancers, the audience is essential to the joy; for others, dancing alone or in a small group of peers is where joy is found.  The key is that joy in dance is not one size fits all.  All dance is performed – a person must actually do the movements.  The differential is whether dance is for the sake of presenting it to others or for the sake of participating for one’s self.

At Kaleidoscope Studio, we encourage people to dance for the love of dance; and offer programming for those who long to present and for those who seek to dance for their own joy.  So, if you wish to be fit like an eighteenth-century sailor under Captain Cook who “took particular care … to make his sailors and marines dance to the sound of a violin,”[4] or to dance for an audience, or to build your empathy and relational capacities, or, if you simply have a love of dance that needs release, we’ve got you covered.

[1] Peter Lovatt, The Dance Cure (New York: Harper Collins, 2021), 3.

[2] Lovatt, 3.

[3] Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (New York: Penguin, 2009), 15.

[4] C. Blasis, The Code of Terpsichore. Barton, R. (trans.), (London: Edward Bull, 1830), 26–27.

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