Dancer: The Real Definition
I know there are many posts out there created by dancers that are used in an attempt to help the world understand who we are and what we do. They’re wonderful, really. I support raising awareness of this beautiful art that sometimes seems to get lost in the shuffle of “more important things”. So for today, let me be one of those dancers who attempts to make our world a little more tangible and a little more focused in this crazy wonderful world. I don’t want to sound preachy or get on a soapbox and shove dance down your throat. I think by now you know how much a part of me the art is, so I simply want to point out some things that may not be first on your mind when you hear “dancer”. Mainly because I think sometimes we are misunderstood and underappreciated.
If you were to look up the definition of dance, here is what sweet old Webster would tell you:
verb ˈdan(t)s, ˈdän(t)s
: to move your body in a way that goes with the rhythm and style of music that is being played
: to move with and guide (someone) as music plays : to dance with (someone)
: to perform (a particular type of dance)
foot (it), hoof (it), step, shake a leg, trip the light fantastic
I particularly like “shake a leg” and “trip the light”. Thanks Mirriam.
But to those of us who move – and those who enjoy watching – it means much more. Because of this, I wasn’t surprised when I asked my Facebook friends to describe dancer in one word and received 54 responses. I was still blown away; their words were genuine. Want to know a secret about the dance world? We are family. We create a unique bond almost immediately. We understand each other; we bond over late nights in the studio, bruised knees, torn up feet, nerves in the wings, assurance and encouragement, and a passion for a beautiful art. It’s usually an unbreakable bond. I hold such high respect for my fellow dancers, and equal respect for those who support us. I want to share their responses to my Facebook request and how they would describe “dancer” in one word: Grace, Artist, Strength, Creative, Motivator, Music, Devotion, Passion, Flexible, Worship, Expression, Enigmatic, Beautiful, Athletic, Power, Freedom, Radical, Idealist, Joy, Fit, Freedom, Honesty, Evolutionary, Innovators, Trained, Raw, Elegance, Storyteller, and Movement. A much more beautiful definition than dear Mirriam gives us.
But I want to push this even further. I want you to see us fully. I want to bring you into our world and give you a little tour.
We are masters of breaking language barriers. We are traditionalists and entrepreneurs. We push the boundaries – physically and socially. We are mathematicians, architects, and engineers. We can indeed count past eight and make beautiful patterns and sculptures while we are at it. We are problem-solvers and designers. We raise questions; we answer them, too. We are abstract; we are straight to the point. We are contradicting. We are trusting and open-minded. We are intelligent; we are more than bodies that merely move in space. We are teachers and musicians. We are fearless. We are masters of our bodies and fight to become masters of our minds. We are locomotive; we are still. We are pleasers and overachievers. We are constant strivers. We are athletes who push beyond limits. We take the insignificant and make it astounding. We find beauty in the intricacies of the body. We are artists.
A few years ago, I had an extremely special and thought-altering conversation with my parents. I told them how amazing it was that my brothers who are doctors would be healing and saving countless lives throughout their career. What had I chosen to do? I chose to dance, to selfishly perform for who knows who, making a difference probably only to myself. My parents looked at me and shook their heads. “No”, they said. “It’s much more than that. Yes, John and Mark will be saving lives, but not every life can be saved medically. There are people out there no doctor could help, but you could bring them joy. You will alter many lives by dancing, even if it’s only for a few moments as they sit in the audience. What you do is just as important.”
I have carried that with me since that day. We are artists. We make a difference. There are so many qualities that make up a dancer, and sometimes they go unnoticed. But they are there, and I want you to see them. I don’t want artists of any kind to be misinterpreted, but I know that sometimes misinterpretations come from simply not knowing. So I will share, always, with anyone who will listen. Dance is hard and intricate, but it sure is beautiful.