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Why do you Dance?


As a dance coach, one of the first questions I pose to my students is, "Why do you dance?" or “Why do you want to dance?” This question might seem simple at first, but it holds the key to unlocking a dancer's true potential and guiding their journey in the most fitting direction.


You know, asking "Why do you dance?" is kind of like planting a seed and watching it grow. As dancers evolve, so do their reasons for dancing.


But here's the thing—I've noticed that in many dance communities, this question doesn't get asked nearly enough. It's like we're churning out these technically brilliant dancers without ever stopping to ask them why they're even dancing in the first place! It's a bit like having a bunch of amazing instruments but not knowing what kind of music they're meant to play. And as someone who works with kids and happens to be a mom, this really worries me.


Are we just leaving these young dancers in the hands of choreographers and coaches who are more interested in their own vision than in nurturing the dancers' own artistic voices? It's like they're playing someone else's tune without even knowing why they picked up their instrument in the first place.


So, let's dig into this question a bit deeper: "Why do you dance?" Let's uncover the real meaning behind the moves.


The purpose of Dance : The Universal Language of Art


Let’s dive deep into the expressive ocean of human creativity, where every art form—be it dance, painting, music, or drama—plays a crucial role. What’s that role, you ask? Simple, yet profound: to tell stories and evoke emotions. At the heart of each artistic discipline beats a shared desire to communicate, to resonate, to touch the very core of our beings.


Think about it—whether it’s a story unfolding on a canvas, weaving through a melody, or coming alive on stage, every artistic expression is a snapshot of the human experience. It’s about capturing life’s complexities and sharing them in ways that resonate universally.


Now, the real magic of art? Its power to evoke emotion. Imagine a violin solo that sends shivers down your spine, or a dance performance that squeezes your heart and then suddenly lifts you up—all in the span of a few beats. Every brushstroke, every note, every dance move is charged with the power to express a spectrum of emotions—from joy to sorrow, from rage to peace—bridging time, cultures, and languages.


This is how artists do more than create; they are storytellers, translating the raw, often messy human experience into a language that everyone, anywhere, can understand. It’s pretty incredible, right? So, as we talk about dance or any art form, remember, we’re really talking about translating the human experience into LANGUAGE that everyone can understand.

 

PURPOSE  OF DANCE = UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE USED TO TELL STORIES AND EVOKE EMOTION

 

Ideally, if you ask a dancer, "Why do you dance?" the crisp answer should be, "To learn the language of dance so I can communicate the stories I want to tell." Sounds simple, right? But, oh boy, that’s not what most people think dance is all about! And then there’s this bigger, looming question: why do you even want to tell stories, and what are those stories you're itching to share?

Let's face it—as a coach, it's quite disheartening to see that most dancers get caught up in the world's rather limited view of dance. Honestly, only about 2% of those who start learning the beautiful language of dance manage to break free from this narrow perspective and truly become fluent in it.


So, what can we do to improve these numbers? How can we ensure that more dancers not only learn this language but also master it? And how does formal dance training fit into all of this? Let's dive into what formal dance training really entails and explore its role in our bigger picture of turning dancers into capable, expressive storytellers.

 

Skills, technique, and physical ability :


Alright, let's chat about technique, skills, and physical ability in dance, because, you see, dance is really just another form of communication—it's like the universal language that everyone can get, but first, you've got to learn the basics.


Think about it this way: when you're picking up any new language, you start with the simple sounds, right? Then you move on to words, and before you know it, you're crafting whole sentences. These are the building blocks you use to express yourself clearly and effectively. Just like you wouldn’t use super formal language at a casual hangout—because, let’s face it, that would just throw everyone off—you also wouldn’t drop slang into a high-stakes business meeting.

And hey, think about a mom teaching her baby to coo. There's no right or wrong way there—it's just pure, simple communication. But if you try cooing in a boardroom, well, you might not get the reaction you're hoping for!


In dance, skills, technique, and physical ability is kind of like those basic sounds or simple words. They're important, sure, but they're just the start. Mastering a challenging jump? That’s like levelling up to a more sophisticated word. But here’s the kicker: even if you can throw around fancy words (or leaps), if they don’t fit into a meaningful sentence that tells a compelling story, what’s the point?


Now, having killer skills and ability is fantastic—it’s like knowing some really impressive sentences.

But if those sentences don’t make sense together, then your message gets lost. It’s the same with dance. You can do all the pirouettes and flips you want, but if they don’t help convey the story or the emotion you’re aiming for, it just looks like a toddler throwing around meaningless words for no reason, (to anyone that fully understands this language.) Just as a lack of these “skills”, “difficulty” and “techniques”  also leaves someone who “speaks dance” a little confused. The lack of certain skills in a certain setting again feels a little like a toddler cooing in a boardroom. (again, you might not get the reaction you were hoping for)


And as you grow in this language of dance, remember, there are tons of places it can take you. Whether you're writing a letter, singing a tune, acing a test, or giving a speech, you're still using the same language, just on different platforms. Dance is no different. Each performance, routine, or class is a chance to 'speak' dance, to move people with your 'words'—your moves.


So, as we dive deeper, let’s keep unpacking how some platforms harm the language more that it helps it.


The platforms – are some platforms missing the purpose of dance


Take competitions, for example. Most competitive dances are squeezed into about 2 minutes. Now compare that with a production, where a creator might luxuriously stretch their narrative over an hour and a half. Clearly, the strategy for storytelling shifts dramatically depending on the timeframe you're working with.


Here's the deal with competitions: they're incredibly strict. You're not only crunched for time, but you're also handed a checklist of requirements—effectively scripting out your sentences and even picking your words for you! This rigidity often morphs dance competitions into something that feels more like a sport than an art form. Often, I find myself leaving these competitions puzzled, thinking, “What story were they trying to tell?” (and sometimes why someone would want a little girl or boy to tell that story) It seems like we’re all speaking dance, but no one’s managing to say anything meaningful.


And then there's the supposed "artistry" judged in these competitions. It often boils down to who can make some bold facial expressions or pull off the weirdest choreography. Picture this: tiny dancers, some just eight years old, dressed in bizarre costumes (sometimes decked out in strait jackets or goth gear,) performing routines they don’t understand. Sure, they’re executing complex moves, and has a certain shock and entertainment value, but does that automatically make it profound art? Hardly. These performances are driven by an urge to check boxes: skills, check; dramatic expressions, check; flashy entrance, check, without even considering authenticity of the emotions used in these performances.


This approach fosters a misguided perception of dance. We're teaching dancers that artistry is about hitting marks on a checklist rather than conveying real emotion or telling a compelling story.

Dance is not just about performing; it's about connecting, expressing, and moving the audience—something that's lost when the focus is solely on technical prowess and shock value.


This distortion extends beyond the dancers to the audience, shaping their understanding of what constitutes a "good" dance or “good” art. They come to expect that if a performance is sufficiently strange or packed with enough athleticism, it must be artful. But in reality, genuine artistry in dance should resonate on a deeper, more emotional level, not just dazzle with physical feats.


Ultimately, we need to rethink how we're teaching and judging dance. It's not just about ticking off the right boxes or winning trophies as an affirmation of if it is good or not. It’s about crafting dancers who can truly communicate—dancers who’s skills and technique is good enough that it doesn’t distract from the story they are trying to tell, but the FOCUS is to use their art to tell stories that touch hearts, communicates and provoke thought. We must encourage a deeper, more authentic approach to dance, where emotional truth and narrative integrity are just as important as technical, physical skill.

 

Let’s wrap this up :


Alright, let’s wrap this up with some real talk about the true essence of dance as the universal language of art. We’ve got to really hammer home to our students that dance isn't just about moving to music; it’s a way to communicate deep, often unspeakable truths. If we reduce dance to merely a vehicle for personal gain, fame, or self-love, then we’re completely missing the point. Art becomes hollow, losing its soul in the process. Plus, let's face it—the world is often quicker to tear down than to build up, so seeking validation through superficial means is a fast track to feeling isolated and empty.


And what about when dance is used to tell stories that aren't appropriate or are just trends? We really need to think critically about the messages we're sending through our young dancers. Are we respecting the art form and the young souls entrusted to us, or are we just using them to mimic adult themes that they can’t even fully grasp to shock, entertain or win?


If the main goal of entering a dance competition is just to win, with little regard for authentic storytelling or emotional truth, then we need to question the criteria we’re judging by. Are we rewarding genuine artistic communication, or are we applauding technical execution devoid of any real substance?


So, why do you dance? Is it to truly learn and master this rich, expressive language? Or are you just echoing empty phrases, hoping others will follow without understanding? Dance is said to be the hidden language of the soul, so what is your soul trying to express? What stories are you telling through your dance, and are they stories worth telling?


This is a critical junction for us as educators and students of dance alike. We should strive to guide our students towards finding meaningful answers to "Why do you dance?" The right answer should resonate with the true purpose of dance as we’ve discussed—not just dancing for accolades or to fit a mold, but dancing to genuinely communicate and speak this language fluently.



Imagine a world where this language could be used to tell stories and everyone could understand it!!!


So, Why do you dance?

Why do you want to tell stories?

And are these stories worth telling?

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series: "Why Do You Teach Dance?" where we'll dive even deeper into the responsibilities and joys of teaching this beautiful art form.

 

 

Always remember to

Dance with Love, Passion and Purpose

Coach Lizette





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