“There are advantages to persevering with a question or thought which rises up during the early teens and then appears and reappears throughout one’s life. For me this question was a philosophical one. I felt a need to understand the very nature of dance.”
I am not talking about the art form or the folk form or what happens at weddings or in bars on a Friday night. I am not talking about hip hop, jook’in, tap, ballet or jazz. I am not talking about flamenco, East Indian or sacred dance …just dance. Why has it taken so many forms? Why is it essential to my life? Why is it often dismissed as a serious endeavor?
At first, I danced. I spun, twisted, balanced, hopped, leapt. I moved to the rhythm and melody and emotion of the music whether it was from the popular radio station, Tchaikovsky spinning from a record player or my Dad playing the violin at night after he thought his children were in bed. Technically we were in bed, but my sister and I danced with our fingers and hands over the covers as we dramatized the music coming from our parents’ bedroom where he sat on the bed with his music stand in front of him.
Imagine you have no body, only an essence. This essence wants to belong and wants to know, but there is some obstruction in the way of knowing and remembering. Even as a small child I had this feeling, if I could only go through this door I would see and then understand what is, what was and what will be. Maybe this door would open as I grew into my teens and early adulthood.
I did grow into an adult, married, had children and now miss my boys who have grown into men. I have my career built around dance and I look back beyond my own lifetime, reading about dance through the centuries going back to the Greeks. As I research dances of the 17th and 18th century and reconstruct them for my dance company, I look for a context in which to understand the nature of dance. It must be beyond our contemporary lens of society, political correctness, diversity, class privilege. I am still looking for the essence because I imagine understanding the essence is an experience of purity.
This need to reach the essence has led me to questions of classical beauty as examined and celebrated by the ancient Greeks and Romans. I am currently surrounded by Pythagoras and talking to Steve Bass, an architect and writer known for his work in classical principles and art. He has three words which say it all: Beauty, Memory, Unity. The thought that beauty in anything is the recognition of the whole through its parts. For example, if we see a half moon we are remembering its wholeness. When we envision a square, we may also think in the 3 dimensions of a cube. Books have been written on classical principles, but allow me to simply say that for me, the door is more open now than ever. I could not have reached this threshold of understanding without going through six decades of life. Through this time, I carried my question, maybe not on the top of my pile, but always in my pile.
Perhaps as we begin 2021 we should dig into our pile and see if there is a question with a journey ahead of it which will carry us beyond the struggles of everyday into a deeper understanding of beauty, memory and unity. I do hope 2021 brings unity.
Art. Aging. Beauty. Lifestyle.