I heard “Go West” by the Village People or maybe it was “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward, then, two of my favorite songs, blasting from the studio speakers at the radio station. I couldn’t help myself, I had to get out of the chair and move to the rhythm. None of my coworkers were in the building, so I felt especially uninhibited. I really let go by prancing, spinning and leaping. The song ended and the recorded voice of Dick Clark back-announced the tune and broke for a commercial.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed about six people standing at the large, plate glass window at the front of the building. One of them knocked and waved. They all applauded, then walked away. I think I remember this little incident from 1979 because I was so startled and embarrassed.
Disco was peaking in 1979, the Billboard Magazine charts verified the music format’s popularity. Some of the best Disco hits came out that year. There were also many bad ones. Even Bill Anderson had an album of disco-flavored country songs he released a year earlier. The late 1970s was a time when popular dance artistry was at its most creative and expressive.
The amusing incident at the radio station came immediately to mind when I glanced at my holiday calendar and noticed that today is International Dance Day. There is an organization called “The International Dance Council”. It’s an umbrella organization within UNESCO that supports all forms of dance in the world. Even though
International Dance Day is not officially linked to any particular person nor event, April 29th just happens to be the birthday of French ballet master and dancer Jean-Georges Noverre.
Contrary to the sour, negative attitudes of the “Disco Sucks” movement, Disco lives on in its Techno, House, and Electronica incarnations. Dance encourages discourse across cultural boundaries. Because dance is largely non-verbal, dancing is a singular force to bridge ethnic and social distinctions. Dance touches the primeval heart of humanity. People naturally relate to the shared instinct to move our bodies as deep personal and emotional expressions.
Dance is probably one of our oldest, primordial art forms. I’m guessing that Neanderthals enjoyed some sort of dancing, too. With the advent of homo Sapiens, came the use of dance in conjunction with oral tales as a way to pass along cultural histories. The use of ecstatic dance has been long used by shamans in healing rites. Dance touches something deep within the human mind.
I think that dance is one of the most genuine forms of artistic expression. In order to dance well, a person must discard deceptions and façades. The peak of dance reveals an almost intimate moment of honesty. Because dance is so primal, we naturally connect to a dancer’s energy, emotions, and thoughts. When we enjoy watching a dancer’s performance, we become deeply empathic. As an artform, performance dancing blends the private with the social as a shared experience.
When alone, a person can let go and simply become one with the music and dance, he is at once open and vulnerable. It’s a celebration of co-existence with the Universe. Solitary dance is a deeply private, personal act that lays bare one’s psyche. This is probably why I felt embarrassed that night in 1979.
On a different level, dance is one of the best forms of exercise that I can think of. You can dance alone at home or with a class at the gym. Even though we’re in workout togs, we soon lose ourselves in the music. It’s fun and we forget that we’re having a workout. Dance simultaneously becomes a way to aerobic health and the expression of joy.
I still regularly select some sort of techno or even Disco music, crank up the stereo, then strut my stuff in the privacy of my living room. Later today, I’ll be dancing to an old mix tape from the early 1980s. It starts out with a remix of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” that blends nicely into Patrick Hernandez’s “Born To Be Alive”.
You don’t need to be Mikhail Baryshnikov to get great benefits from dance. Regardless of skill level, most of us can find some form of movement and dance that we can enjoy. International Dance Day is the time to celebrate the amazing experience of dance.