What does it mean to dance?

I was sent to dancing lessons from early on in life. I’ve always thought of dance as being about the music, especially once I got to the point of being able to improvise. I’ve danced as a performer, but more usually I’ve danced amongst people with no audience.

This weekend I had the experience of watching dance – some I realised I’d not done in a long time. I’ve watched morris dancers in the last few years, but it’s not the same as sitting down quietly in a room to watch something that isn’t about repeating patterns. The dance I watched – Without Measure – had no music. Some of the pieces were performed in silence, some had spoken work soundtracks. In the absence of music, it had me thinking about sound and bodies in some unexpected ways.

When you dance in silence, it is the sound of the movement, and the sound of the audience, that occupies the space. Small sounds that would normally disappear under the music become intense and important. The breath of the dancer becomes part of what you experience. Watching anything in silence is normal, but when there is so little constructed soundscape, you become really aware of the smallest sounds you accidently make. This is not a performance in which it is easy to cough.

We normally dance to music. We normally have the speed, rhythm and mood of the dance shaped by the music playing. We’re used to the sense of dance coming from this relationship with sound. Take the music away, and a whole host of questions arise about the nature and purpose of dance.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “What does it mean to dance?

  • Paul Southcott

    I was never bold enough to dance because when I was a child dancing …at least in our house.. was seen as something connected with courtship and sexuality, and always drew a kind of nudge – nudge-wink -wink reaction from my mother, which made it into something that was impossible for me to do. I feel that I’ve really missed out …. though I did do Border Morris for a few years, but, you know…

    • Nimue Brown

      If you get chance, Paul, go to anything Dawn Morgan is running – she holds wonderful safe spaces in which dance is an act of soul not the usual sexualised malarky. I can heartily recommend what she does.

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