Dance in your living room. Dance in the streets. Crank up the music you love. Head for your local club, ecstatic dance happening, festival, whatever, wherever. Why is this number one? There’s a reason why every single culture in human history has danced. Well, almost every single culture. If you went to England in the year 1660, you wouldn’t have seen much dancing. For that matter if you go to Saudi Arabia today, you won’t see much either. And in fact even in New York City you might see, as I did recently on a subway as it banked and heaved under Brooklyn, a troupe of breakdancers being studiously stared down by stonefaced riders – even as they dropped impossible head spins in perfect unison. But the fact that so many of our cultures and so many of our own personal demons have worked so hard to suppress dancing or ‘better’ yet just edit it out of daily life only adds to the argument for its power. There’s something inexplicable to the analytical mind that dancing evokes. It’s the whole system of the human being working together. In fact, it can be the whole system of a human community working together, when it happens in a powerful “container.” It’s a way that we transcend ourselves, or a way that we transcend what we normally think of as ourselves.
Dictators, puritans, fundamentalists, police, child abusers, codependents, occupying armies and bureaucracies well versed in the idea of city as just a homeland for consumption know it and can never admit it without losing their grip: people dance their way to wholeness. Whole people can’t be controlled. Whole people won’t look the other way. Whole people won’t keep to themselves. They don’t make good soldiers, good drones, good informants, good consumers. They can’t be led into false dichotomies so easily. The Romans said it best: Divide and conquer, and even a single person must be divided before she can be conquered. Then logic or emotion can be separated out, manipulated and misled. Then intuition can find itself abandoned and be harassed into depressed submission. Then the body can find itself defenseless against cold and hunger and grasp for the warmth of a uniform. Among people divided inside, collective genius is but a pipe dream. But a people accustomed to shaking their booties will shake even their own dogmas to pieces. Mind, body, emotion, intuition, spirit make a smoothie tastier than the sum of its parts. Barriers come down between people and anything is possible.
For me, the act of dancing very quickly clears out mental congestion. My analytical mind, so adept at outsmarting itself into corners that it can’t think its way out of, takes a willing backseat and happily watches the scenery go by. In that softer, more muted focus, it begins to connect the dots, to pin pieces together in new ways, to step outside problem-centric thinking. And when I sit down again, I’m smiling, with solutions – more like volcanic inspirations – often racing to my fingertips. After even ten minutes with the music I love, its a lot harder to be abusive. Its a lot harder to berate myself. It’s a lot harder to deny the colors around me, and a lot harder to avoid the beauty in another person’s eyes. It’s a lot harder to pretend my dreams are not my dreams, my grief is not my grief, my love is not my love, my genius is not my genius. Its a lot harder to force Whatever Flying Spaghetti Monster brought all this into existence into a tiny box to do my bidding. And the wheels of imagination begin to turn.
So what happens when we take that sort of thing into the streets?
Brittle bones regain their youth. Generations lose their distance. People lose the serious, seriously fast. People remember their jobs are just, well, jobs and yet the work becomes meaningful. We’re naked and costumed, equal and special, human, animal and ethereal. For a brief moment, we’re not rich vs poor, high vs low, straight and narrow vs straight out of prison. We’re storytellers, creators, little gods who could care less whether our divinity is make believe.
We’re alive. We’re friends, we’re lovers. We lose ourselves and find ourselves. Wasn’t that once quoted as the outcome of love? Or was it the definition? Brainstorming in one instant and building the next, in our apartments, our houses, our streets, our cities, our cities, with no opposing force. It’s in that space that the transformation of our culture begins, in that space that the muse returns to our daily routines, that science and poetry fuse in wonder, that we remember that we’re tiny and that we matter, and that the world is worth fighting for.
And with that it’s time for me to hang it up and get down.