“Let it be a dance we do. May I have this dance with you? Through the good times and the bad times, too, let it be a dance.
Let a dancing song be heard. Play the music, say the words, and fill the sky with sailing birds. Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
Learn to follow, learn to lead, feel the rhythm, fill the need to reap the harvest, plant the seed. Let it be a dance.
Everybody turn and spin, let your body learn to bend, and like a willow with the wind, let it be a dance. Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
A child is born, the old must die, a time for joy, a time to cry. Take it as it passes by. Let it be a dance.
Morning star comes out at night, without the dark there is no light. If nothing’s wrong, then nothing’s right. Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance. Let it be a dance.
Let the sun shine, let it rain, share the laughter, bear the pain, and round and round we go again. Let it be a dance.”
These are the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, Let it Be a Dance. It was composed by Ric Masten in 1977. Looking at life as music to be danced to is one of the most beautiful metaphors I’ve had the privilege to reflect upon. Dance is one of the best ways to express our emotions and should be embraced in just about whatever form it takes. I wish in this post to examine a few of these forms and convey their meaning to me. Hopefully, we can share an emotional connection in what dance means to us.
Very early in human history, dance was used in celebration. It’s been flaunted in courting, as with birds and many animals, and continued down through the ages around the world. People who weren’t even aware of each other, from the Mayan civilization to Chinese dynasties, were moved to dance in expression of meaning in their lives.
The courting rituals have had remarkable lasting power. With subtle sensuality in the minuet and the waltz, dancing gave young people opportunities to approach and retreat, to touch and to move in tandem aesthetically with a sometimes suggestive grace. These dances gradually became less subtle until they blatantly mimicked the sex act. But rituals they were, hardly more than mating dances.
Dancing in the Mirror
In my life, there were dances for many occasions. There was the twist, which was a way to contort the torso while maintaining an air of innocence. The jerk showed us how to project our chests boldly to our dance partners under the pretense of it being meaningless, which was how it became in due time. I remember doing the boogaloo, taking my cues from the cool guys from the biggest small town in our county. The way they did it was extreme and primitive, yet innovative.
Watching dance troupes on TV and in movies brought me to recognize the class and elegance in choreographed routines. They informed us on the possibilities of putting rock and jazz into a visual realm, enhancing both greatly.
The pinnacle of the art of dance has to be ballet. The skill and training alone place it in the elite class of the art–of all arts, perhaps. If the prehistoric ancients were trying to reach the gods with their ritualistic dancing, ballet would have been what they had in their highest Mind.
Romeo and Juliet
I happened to run across a moving ballet (no pun intended) on PBS’ Great Performances last week. Here’s the written announcement from the network that introduces it better than I ever could. “Experience a ballet of Shakespeare’s classic from choreographer Kenneth MacMillan performed by dancers from The Royal Ballet set to a score by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev filmed on atmospheric locations throughout Budapest.” I was taken by the visual beauty of this film. The characters were striking and their presence was seemingly made more compelling by the absence of dialogue. I found myself with a new appreciation for ballet.
A few years ago, my wife was singing in the Tucson Women’s Chorus when they were invited to provide a choral accompaniment to a local production of The Nutcracker. As I recall, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra was providing the incomparable composition by Tchaikovsky. The ballet performance backed by the fine music was spellbinding. This was only the second ballet I had attended in my life. It was the primary highlight of that Christmas season, providing us all with holiday feasts for the eyes, the ears and the hearts. May we find our joy in this challenging year’s final days. Let it be a dance!