Why do we dance?

There are some people that as soon as they hear the first few chords of a beloved melody, they cannot help but start tapping their feet and swaying their hips. Then there are others that won’t touch a dance floor unless they have plied themselves with ample amounts of alcohol. So, in search of an answer as to why humans dance, I turned to this article by Kimerer LaMothe Ph.D. :

“Why Do Humans Dance?

Why DO humans dance?

You might think it’s an easy question to answer. It isn’t. Not for me. It took a whole book! Seven chapters!

Yet it is also true that themes of those chapters spiral around one another, forming a thick cord that, I am hoping, different people can grasp in different places, wherever it comes closest to where they are.

So then, why do humans dance?

A good first step is to clarify the terms of the question. What is “dance” anyway? Why we do it depends on what “it” is.

I define dance as an emergent phenomenon, one that is rooted in the movement of our bodily selves.

We humans are movement. We are the movement that is making us able to think and feel and act at all. Sometimes the movement that we are erupts in a spontaneous burst and assumes a new pattern.

We may be walking down the street and a passing sensation streaks through our bodily selves, producing a small hop, a shift in weight, a skip forward. Or we are walking along the ocean’s edge, suddenly propelled by the felt force of the crashing waves to spin and stretch along with them.

In such moments, dance emerges. It is tossed up within the restive currents of movement that we are, taking shape as a new pattern of sensory awareness that changes us. We are now the person who made that move. When such an impulse courses through us, it relates us to ourselves and our worlds in a new way. It aligns. It touches. It frees. It is dance.

While such emergences may be spontaneous, we can also practice opening ourselves up to receiving them. We can practice noticing and recreating movement patterns that appear to us—movements organized into a technique, a style, a form—so as to heighten our vulnerability to such animating bursts. Whatever movements we practice–in any realm–will encourage us to make further movements in the directions they define.

In this case, the movement patterns that we are practicing serve as invitations to deepen our sensation of movement. The movements we practice invite us to move with greater ease, facility, and dynamic delivery in the patterns they represent. They invite us to receive sponteous bursts of energy in line with the trajectories they open. This too, is dance.

Returning to the initial question, this definition of dance points towards a circular answer. Humans dance because dance is human. Dance is not an accidental or supplemental activity in which humans choose to engage or not. Dance is essential to our survival as human beings.

Without the barest ability to notice, recreate, and become patterns of movement, without the ability to invite impulses to move, humans would not be able to learn how to sense and respond to the sources of their wellbeing—to people, to nourishment, to ideas, to environments. Dancing is essential to the rhythm of bodily becoming by which human persons become whomever they are.

The implications are many and far reaching.

For one, dance is in everyone. There is no escape from it. You can’t say that you can’t, don’t, didn’t or won’t. The only question is how. How are you dancing? How are you going to dance? Under what influences? With what inspiration? Beholden to what impediments? In response to what goals, goads, and gods? Or maybe there is a second question—why, as in: Why have you stopped?”

See the article here.

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