Dancing As Political Activism
Dance can strip you down to your most essential, your most efficient: your body, your mind, and one goal: to move. You can move for a purpose, to convey meaning; or you can move for the sake of moving. It’s this flexible property that makes dance a powerful civic tool.
I find freedom in dance. It affords me an unprecedented amount of dynamism: I can be an agent of change, both within the dance form and beyond the dance form. Because dance isn’t bound by languages, borders, or even creeds, it holds the power to unite different people in a fundamentally simple way: as humans, with all of our differences. The ability to see people as people, neither in spite of our differences nor because of our differences is an incredibly complicated concept that dance helps us internalize and feel viscerally.
In these times of division, this concept of seeing people as people, without need for justifications, is one of the few tools we have to bring people together. It’s the only art form that is truly public property. Dance as a tool is not susceptible to reductive rhetoric: it can’t be reduced to dog whistles or cheap platitudes. Dance transcends language and creates space for all of those raw emotions to breathe. Where the variability of individual morality and the limitations of social constructs can leave people feeling silenced, dance allows us to feel and express safely, for both ourselves and others.
So in these times of fear, rage, and powerlessness, dance is a sociopolitical moral imperative. We need to dance. We need to learn to dance. We need to teach others to dance. Our bodies are more powerful than we know. Our bodies are subversive, existing beyond and despite every attempt to dim our glimmer.
Our dances are subversive - we've learned and continue to learn to take these bodies and this glimmer of hope and resilience and bend them to create beautiful, poignant, warm beams of light into a world that seems to have forgotten to stop, breathe and take in some sunshine, once in awhile. Most importantly, our ability to come together for the sake of keeping the light alive is incredibly subversive. We have shown that in the face of hate, greed, and rage, we will not cower. We will dance a dance so powerful that hate will forget to hate, and burn itself to ash in the light we create.
In a time when we feel alone, these dances hold a direct line to our past, both as different cultures and as a global species learning to move as a group in harmony. Dance is necessarily about change: in an incredibly politically pure fashion, every dancer has a hand in the creation of dance. Like our individual lives, our collective life, our government, our economy, our languages, dance changes. But unlike these things, dance is not subject to borders, and in the age of globalization, dance reaches millions around the world in a constant universal conversation that crosses nations and cultures. Different dances from different places and different people are talking to each other, and this conversation is constantly writing our stories, passionately and honestly.
So, in these times of confusion, be honest: don’t censor yourself - dance. Add to our story. Bring your darkest thoughts. Bring your deepest pain and confusion. Bring your grief. Bring your fear. Bring your joy and your small and big victories. Dance these things into our collective understanding.
Don't wait for the music to start, don't wait for the lights to come on, don't wait for the seats to be filled. Join the conversation. Listen. Watch other dancers. Support them. Find new ways to express yourself and seek the panoptic universality of these art forms. Take the time to dance for yourself, too. Take the time to be aware of the honesty of your own emotions, expressing themselves through your movements. Do your civic duty, and contribute to our collective story honestly, through dance.
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