I’ve been a little down in the dumps about finding a place for dance in society lately. People don’t seem to care, there’s no funding (and Congress wants to cut what little there is). Art in general is pretty underappreciated, but I think dance is pretty far up on the list of most underappreciated art forms. So I wanted to go ahead and speak a little about why dance is important, especially from the framework of a devotee of Freyja. I’m sure a lot of this will be things I’ve said on here before, but I’d like to put it all here in one spot, so that I can come back and look at it when I’m feeling useless again in the future.
Dance is not the twinkletoes silly thing most people bill it as, and modern dance is not the “interpretive dance” of people pretending to be trees and the wind as it’s so often mocked to be. The people who mock dance as being silly or pointless or whatever have a)probably never seen good dance and b)probably are pretty disconnected with their bodies.
Being disconnected with our bodies is an extremely common problem in the society in which we live. Women, in particular, have a pretty strong distaste for their bodies and spend endless hours talking and thinking about how much they hate their bodies, and money and other resources on making their bodies more to their liking through plastic surgery and dieting, as if somehow dieting or getting plastic surgery can make you get sort of updated to a better model. But a body is not a consumer product. It isn’t something to ignore or despise. It’s easy enough to hate yourself if you like your body, and since our bodies are ourselves, hating your body is basically equivalent to self-loathing.
While I am not going to try to argue that dance helps people like their bodies better, especially considering how pervasive eating disorders are among dancers, I do think that dance has the capability of teaching us that our bodies are important parts of ourselves, and, as parts of ourselves, need to be tended to.
One of the things that people often say when they first get to know Freyja is that she makes you face your body. She likes to teach people to embrace the pleasures of their body–whether that be through doing something pretty with their hair, or taking hot perfumed baths, or even just enjoying sex more. Freyja helps us to remember that our bodies are our growing selves, the parts that come from the same nature as the trees and flowers. Our thoughts are cultural, but our bodies are made from the stuff the earth is made of. And she wants us to see them as beautiful, just as we do sunsets and flowers and trees.
So I like to promote dance as what might be Freyja’s favorite art form, the one most closely aligned with her other domains. They overlap so strongly–beauty and bodies, energy raising, skill, joy.
In general, I think aesthetics are not given enough credence. Our workplaces are drab, our city streets colorless. And while it is true that beauty is not necessarily required for life to go on, beauty is often what makes life worth living. And here, of course, I mean beauty in a broad sense–not just visual beauty, but the beauty of all our senses–sound, touch, taste, kinesthesia, even story and emotional beauty like joy. Art teaches us about the world in which we live, teaches us how to cope with the difficulties of life, gives us the freedom to say those hidden thoughts that cannot be expressed through normal conversation. People are happier in places with a good sense of aesthetics–I certainly am.
Dancing is how I bring Freyja’s mysteries out into the world where they can be appreciated even by people who don’t know her. Where people can learn to align themselves with their bodies, their most expressive entity, so that they may learn to take care of themselves better. If we actually engaged with our own bodies, and tried to take care of them as we do our family members or even beloved objects like the heirloom necklace my mother gave me, instead of making them into commodities, then perhaps we can fix our world, too. Perhaps we can make a world to take care of ourselves instead of our wallets, and we can try not to pollute them. We could fix the world.
It is, perhaps, too far to think that teaching people dance could teach them to take better care of the planet. But what if? What if we really listened to our bodies? What if we really acted as if our bodies mattered, as if they are more than a vessel for our brains? Could we clean the air for our tired lungs? The land for our tired food?
For more on why art is awesome, see: The Artist Rebuttal Book Project