For both Christians and Jews, this is the holy season. For Christians, this week leads up to the seminal event in the history of the religion, celebrated as Easter. For Jews, this is the week of Passover, celebrating the exodus from Egypt that led to the creation of their nation in biblical times. As the divine is especially present for many people at this time of the year, I thought it might be appropriate to spend a few minutes thinking about the divine transcendence that is possible with dance.
Beyond learning techniques and patterns and tricks, dance is one of the few human activities that enables people to create intimacy… and certainly it is among the very few activities that permits such intimacy in a public space. When a dancer becomes able to stop thinking through emulating and reproducing a choreographed combination, for instance, s/he is then able to experience that intimacy and feel a type of transcendence beyond the mere physical. S/he begins to become aware of how the music moves him or her, and sense how that movement and an intimate connection with a partner creates a sense of otherworldliness. In a great partner dance, it is possible for both partners to feel as if they have been transported to a special place. It is indeed an exhilarating feeling that sustains even after a great dance.
Some practitioners of Eastern philosophies claim that dance and movement is a form of worship, that through such movements can they discover the divine, and indeed, sometimes even a transcendent ecstasy. Achieving this state of dance is a wonderful experience, one that, once achieved, a dancer seeks to recapture time and again.
How to find this special place of “transcen-dance?” There are the three types of connection that I always talk about: with the music, with your partner, and with the floor. When you truly embody these three, rather than (necessarily) obsessing about perfectly replicating a learned pattern, you begin to experience dance in a whole new way. Your brain “gets out of the way” and allows not only your body, but your entire being to connect in these three ways. Even for those choreographed combinations that one does learn, if you make them your own by enabling your body to dance them without the need to think about them, they become a means towards transcen-dance. By transcending what one has learned, and embodying the total experience of music, partner, and floor, we have the opportunity for dance to truly become divine.
For those who are celebrating during this season, may both your formal worship and your dance bring you joy.