Dancing and the Sense of Freedom

Igor Polk, June 15, 2006

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What is dancing;

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We live in-between constraints put on us. Freedom is relative. Usually we can excersise freedom in what we possess, what we allow for ourselves, what makes our own world, but most of our possessions are relative. There are only 2 things we possess absolutely. The first is our body. Dancing opens the world of our body to ourselves and blocks all other influences. It makes other constraints obsolete, diminishes them to the level of non existence. The whole elaborate setting of tango is to help that. And as we discover the infinite depth of our intellectual world during emotional and logical practice, the same way we discover the infinite universe of our own body in dancing. Dancing opens it to an incredible extent, and all other activities which are similar are no other than dancing themselves: martial arts, sex, running, acrobatics..

The constraints put on us limit the ideal absolute freedom. It is to the good, so that the cooperative freedom and survival-ability increases, or to the bad, when one wants more freedom at our expense, or just imposed by the environment. These constrains saturate everything, they are even embedded in our brains. Dancing, especially tango, with its elaborate settings, magical music, and intricate technique effectively blocks, neutralizes the constraints including those incorporated in ourselves. Temporarily, but still it is a retreat, a spring to drink from and restore the energy of freedom and rise the spirit.

The second thing we possess absolutely is our relation with those of our kind. Relations not complicated by any means beyond our own control: human, natural, almost animal relations. A humanity was born in the family, tribe, pack, and each of us is or should be a part of it. It is unseparatable from our nature as social animals. In modern world we suffer greatly by not experiencing these relations enough. A couple dancing provides a complete freedom of these positive relations on most instinctive level to the incredible degree. There is a whole universe in this link, directly connecting our souls together.

There are many other relations we are in, but most of them are regulated, controlled or dictated by third forces way beyond our ability to influence them, therefore our freedom in them is suppressed. No matter who we are.

Freedom during Dancing

So, what is that freedom experienced in relations? Once we establish a direct link, a relation, there are many things which are developing in it. One of them is an action together. There is a result of the action. It is not enough to experience freedom in acting together. It is the result of the action that must be shared either. How often does it happen in the other life? The result of the dancing action together is the feeling of the dance - a successful dance ! It is ours totally, it belongs to both of us and there is no any share possible: together with our dance we are the whole. The word "possess" can not be applied here - we live in it. This is an absolute freedom in our relations and that is how dancing let us experience it.

There are two ways to dance together. Without touch, when we establish the link through the vision and enjoy synchronization, responsiveness, and beauty of bodies and moves, common result, and splashes of energy in the common rhythm as a unified organism.   And with touch, when our bodies communicate directly. Vision is switching off as the main sensor and preceptor. We are allowed to immerse a level deeper into the instincts and achieve greater separation with environment which might carry extra constraints for our sense of absolute freedom. Our eye vision is replaced with tactile vision.

The touch is magical. Just a clear simple definite touch. It allows to communicate in many ways, feel the dancing in the partner's body, and make the unity. Once we've learned to experience, value, and drink from the freedom in the simplest things, we are much better off outside of a dance hall.


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Here is an article from New York Times ( I hope they forgive my long citation )


June 3, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Dance, Dance, Revolution

COMPARED with most of the issues that the venerable civil liberties
lawyer Norman Siegel takes up, this one may seem like the ultimate in
urban frivolity: Late last month, he joined hundreds of hip-hoppers,
salsa dancers, Lindy Hoppers and techno-heads boogying along Fifth
Avenue to protest New York City?s 80-year-old restrictions on dancing in

But disputes over who can dance, how and where, are at least as old as
civilization, and arise from the longstanding conflict between the
forces of order and hierarchy on the one hand, and the deep human
craving for free-spirited joy on the other.

New York?s cabaret laws limit dancing to licensed venues. They date back
to the Harlem Renaissance, which had created the unsettling prospect of
interracial dancing.

For decades, no one paid much attention to the laws until Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani, bent on turning Manhattan into a giant mall/food court,
decided to get tough. Today, the city far more famous for its night life
than its Sunday services has only about 170 venues where it is legal to
get up and dance ? hence last month?s danced protest, as well as an
earlier one in February.

Dust-ups over dancing have become a regular feature of urban life. Dance
clubs all over the country have faced the threat of shutdowns because
the dancing sometimes spills over into the streets. While neighbors
annoyed by sleepless nights or the suspicion of illegal drug use may be
justified in their concerns, conflict over public dancing has a long
history ? one that goes all the way back to the ancient Mediterranean world.

The Greeks danced to worship their gods ? especially Dionysus, the god
of ecstasy. But then the far more strait-laced Romans cracked down
viciously on Dionysian worship in 186 B.C., even going on to ban dancing
schools for Roman children a few decades later. The early Christians
incorporated dance into their liturgy, despite church leaders? worries
about immodesty. But at the end of the fourth century, the archbishop of
Constantinople issued the stern pronouncement: ?For where there is a
dance, there is also the Devil.?

The Catholic Church did not succeed in prohibiting dancing within
churches until the late Middle Ages, and in doing so perhaps
inadvertently set off the dance ?manias? that swept Belgium, Germany and
Italy starting in the 14th century. Long attributed to some form of
toxin ? ergot or spider venom ? the manias drove thousands of people to
the streets day and night, mocking and menacing the priests who tried to
stop them.

In northern Europe, Calvinism brought a hasty death to the old public
forms of dancing, along with the costuming, masking and feasting that
had usually accompanied them. All that survived, outside of vestiges of
?folk dancing,? were the elites? tame, indoor ballroom dances, fraught,
as in today?s ?Dancing With the Stars,? with anxiety over a possible
misstep. When Europeans fanned out across the globe in the 18th and 19th
centuries, the colonizers made it a priority to crush the danced rituals
of indigenous people, which were seen as savagery, devil worship and
prelude to rebellion.

To the secular opponents of public dancing, it is always a noxious
source of disorder and, in New York?s case, noise. But hardly anyone
talks about what is lost when the music stops and the traditional venues
close. Facing what he saw as an epidemic of melancholy, or what we would
now call depression
, the 17th-century English writer Robert Burton
placed much of the blame on the Calvinist hostility to ?dancing,
singing, masking, mumming and stage plays.? In fact, in some cultures,
ecstatic dance has been routinely employed as a cure for emotional
disorders. Banning dancing may not cause depression, but it removes an
ancient cure for it

The need for public, celebratory dance seems to be hardwired into us.
Rock art from around the world depicts stick figures dancing in lines
and circles at least as far back as 10,000 years ago. According to some
anthropologists, dance helped bond prehistoric people together in the
large groups that were necessary for collective defense against
marauding predators, both animals and human. While language also serves
to forge community, it doesn?t come close to possessing the emotional
urgency of dance. Without dance, we risk loneliness and anomie.

Dancing to music is not only mood-lifting and community-building; it?s
also a uniquely human capability. No other animals, not even
chimpanzees, can keep together in time to music. Yes, we can live
without it, as most of us do most of the time, but why not reclaim our
distinctively human heritage as creatures who can generate our own
communal pleasures out of music and dance?

This is why New Yorkers ? as well as all Americans faced with anti-dance
restrictions ? should stand up and take action; and the best way to do
so is by high stepping into the streets.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author, most recently, of ?Dancing in the
Streets: A History of Collective Joy.?

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Corporation.


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