Can we change the world, one dance at a time?

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Can we change the world, one dance at a time?

A KjzzFuzion Perspective Article on Dancing and Connection

We have many technological advancements and social platforms today geared at improving human communication.  However, as Sherry Turkle stated in her 2012 TED Talk on technology and modern communication, “we’re getting used to a new way of being alone together.”  Our current social context is slowly designing a generation that wants to be listened to, but ignores establishing connection, presence, or conversations.  In essence, we are finding solutions for companionship “without the demands of friendship.”  We are lonely in a crowd of loners.  (Source: “Connected, But Alone?” Sherry Turkle, 2012.)

Surely, we are still far from the tragically dystopian future we see in science-fiction movies or books. What can we do to make sure that future does not become reality? How can we nurture the human connection we need to foster? How can we develop friendships that prove deeper than mere companionships?

One answer is dancing.  Partner dancing specifically forces two people to face each other, stand close, and move together.  There is no better way to get to know each other and develop trust, even if the person in front of you is a stranger, or worse yet, an enemy.  When you look someone in the eye and dance, that person becomes a unique individual to you, and all the other labels related to their ethnicity, socio-economic group, upbringing or sexual orientation fade away.  In dancing, you connect and learn compassion.

Dancing is about connection, and that is not just a subjective opinion.  Pierre Dulaine, four-time world champion of ballroom dancing, proved this point by bringing ballroom dancing to schools, autistic children programs, psychiatric clinics and homeless shelters, and demonstrated tangible results on the participants’ confidence and ability to interact and connect with the people around them. The most moving experiment he conducted was to bring his program to Israel, where Jewish and Palestinian children were controversially brought together, and taught to connect with one another through dance. They learned to trust, respect, and shed labels. This is a powerful example of how dancing can change communities, nations, and the world.  (Source: “May I Have This Dance, Please?” Pierre Dulaine, 2014.)

Dancing can connect entire populations, but at a smaller scale, it can help you, as an individual, connect with other individuals.  One common misconception with social dances is that they are either very romantic in nature, or sometimes even very sexual.  This may scare away people who are looking for human relationships that are more platonic in nature, or who are afraid of the potentially seductive aspect of dancing so close with the opposite sex.  But as Joe Demers, creator of the Drag Blues style of partner dance, explains, the dialogue that occurs between two dance partners, when done right, is primarily one of respect.  Dancing is about sharing, collaborating, and synergizing.  Open communication is crucial to great dancing, and Demers demonstrates this by always first asking his partner if she wants to dance, and if she agrees to him leading. He has also demonstrated the platonic nature of the dancing connection by sharing dances with male partners, to signify a good friend with whom dancing is about fun and synergy, same as with his female partners. (Source: “The Power of Partner Dance.” Joe Demers, 2015.)

With the right partner and the right attitude, social dancing becomes a meaningful communion between two people and the experiences and lessons are life-changing.  So yes, we can change the world, one dance at a time.  Each dance is a self paced opportunity to learn more about ourselves and others while we communicate for mutual collaboration.

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