Dance, a form of body language through movement and expression that transcends language barriers and is universally understood. So much can be communicated through facial expressions and movement. Stories can be told, and emotions can be expressed and shared. There’s no need for words or language translations – dance is a universal language of its own.
On 29 April each year, International Dance Day is celebrated! It is all about bringing people around the world together with a common language – dance, as well as to promote and raise awareness of dance in all its forms across the world. It was the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) that created the day in 1982, and since its first day it has always got eminent dancers and choreographers to write a message. You can find this year’s messages here. I’m particularly taken with two separate quotes from one of the message author’s, Marianela Boán of Cuba (Choreographer, dancer and teacher):
Dancing is the great antidote to the madness of mankind.
In your body you carry the dances that will save you.
Has dance featured in my life? Yes, of course! I did ballet as a very young child, but it was not a passion at the time, and life for my parents became a lot busier as four more siblings followed me, so ballet lessons were not continued. However, I did love going to dances as a teen and young adult. How I’d love to feel as free and uninhibited as I did then, now! Perhaps that will be my way to celebrate International Dance day this year, by putting aside a little time on Sunday 29 April to pop on some music and ‘dance like nobody’s watching’. What a lovely way to reacquaint myself, on a personal level, with the universal joy of dance by attempting to relax and feel free enough to express myself unselfconsciously and without restraint through movement to music, as I used to. During my younger years, the dance floor was my happy place. I’d move freely to the beat of the music, often jumping around on the dance floor and singing along to the music, totally uninhibited, releasing all stress accumulated through the week and feeling such joy and happiness. It was a great form of expression, an excellent form of stress relief, and of course a source of so much fun with my friends! It’s kind of sad that we stop doing these things during our adult years, as responsibilities take over.
Dance became a different but bigger part of my life when I became a mother. My daughter was involved with dance from a young age but most of all when she was in high school. During high school, she was very much involved in the performing arts (drama and dance) and she also did rhythmic gymnastics which is pretty much dance in my books! She loved to dance and was very good at it. She did dance as a school subject. How lucky are kids these days with the awesome subject choices they have? She was a member of the school’s junior and later senior dance troupes. She acted (and often danced too) in her school musicals and physical theatre productions, and she also did co-curricular dance. For several years, I was Secretary of the Performing Arts Support Group at her school and was quite involved in all the performances and behind the scenes preparations and rehearsals.
My favourite annual school event was the Dance Showcase held towards the end of the school year. I soon learnt to ensure I had a good stash of tissues or a handkerchief in my handbag. There would be a fabulous assortment of performances – solo’s, pairs, class, dance troupes, & more! There was jazz, contemporary, ballet, hip hop, cultural – many diverse genres of dance. The girls loved what they were doing and that was very evident by the joy in their faces. You could see how months of rehearsing together had bonded them in ways that would be remembered for a lifetime. When I watched them perform, I would be taken through the full gamut of emotions. I would be told stories of misfortune, experience different cultures, heartbreak and love and poverty and wealth and humour, and more! The most emotion I felt though was when watching my own daughter dance, particularly when she performed a solo self-choreographed contemporary piece. I would be moved to tears every time. Watching the passion in her every movement, the emotion in her every expression, and to see how much she loved what she was doing, coupled with the pure talent and grace of her dancing, it was just so beautiful. Most of all though, was the joy I felt knowing she loved what she was doing. After all, isn’t that what we all want … for our children to be safe and happy?!
Not all children are as fortunate as my daughter has been though, to have lived in a safe country and gone to a school that offers a diverse and rewarding education. The wonderful thing about ‘dance’ is that it is a form of joy, escapism, and education for all, as well as protection for those children that live in places affected by conflict or disaster. World Vision Australia’s Child Friendly Spaces provides a safe place for some of the world’s most vulnerable children. These spaces are commonly used in emergencies as a quick response to identify gaps in children’s rights for protection, mental well-being, and informal education. Children spend several hours a day there (based on needs), where they not only can dance but play games and develop other skills including drawing, handcrafts, and acting. It’s been said that children express emotions through their bodies more freely than adults, so dance as therapy can help them to regain some of the freedom and spontaneity of expression that is lost through inhibitions created by their emotional and physical experiences. That would be a very good thing because after all, isn’t that what we all want … for ALL our world’s children to be safe and happy?!
Do you enjoy dancing? Do much of it these days? Will you join with me on Sunday 29 April by popping on some music and spending a little time ‘Dancing Like Nobody’s Watching’ in honour of International Dance Day?
Ciao for now
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