"…For us dancing is the boredom of classical ballet, or the whiling chaos of savages, or the subhuman thrashing about of discos. But here is also the dance of the wind, which we see in the trees, the invisible dance of the hours, the dance of the angels, and the arcane dance of the universe, and sometimes during nights of insomnia we hear the music of the spheres."
"Dance has always been a way of accessing the other worlds, especially whirling or spinning."
"We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars....the stars form a circle, and in the center we dance."
-Rumi `13th century
"Give your body joy, because your body is for giving happiness and good things."
"I just put my feet in the air and move them around."
"I don't want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance."
"Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is no mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself."
"Dancing begets warmth, which is the parent of wantonness. It, Sir, the great grandfather of cuckoldom."
-Henry Fielding (1707-54)
"He could not live men’s ways, but became a dancer before God."
The Death of Saint Narcissus
"The only dance masters I could have were Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Walt Whitman and Nietzsche."
"Dance like no one’s watching."
"How strange it must have been to those dilettantes of the gorgeous Ballet, with its lavish decorations and scenery, to watch a young girl, clothed in a tunic of cobweb, appear and dance fore a simple blue curtain to the music of Chopin; dance her soul as she understood the soul of Chopin! Yet even for the first dance there was a storm of applause…."
(an account of Isadora Duncan’s appearance in Russia 1905)
"Dancing begets warmth, which is the parent of wantonness. It is, Sir, the great grandfather of cuckoldom."
Henry Fielding (1707-54)
"I’m terribly sensitive to certain physical beauties-dancing girls etc., and out of them I shape a sort of artificial paradise on earth. I’ve got be close to dancing to live. As I think Nietzsche wrote: "I’ll have faith in God only if he dances."
"We look at the dance to impart the sensation of living in an affirmation of life, to energize the spectator into keener awareness of the vigor, the mystery, the humor, the variety, and the wonder of life. This is the function of the American dance."
Martha Graham (1894-1991)
"…..For many jitterbugs, the emotional experience of swing transcended romance. Eager fans transformed dance hall culture by crowding around bandstands to watch and listed; some listeners exhibited wild bodily exertions even without partners. Goodman described the first jitterbug he ever saw. At a Kansas City ballroom in 1934, a male dancer began to go "off his conk. His eyes rolled, his limbs began to spin like a windmill in a hurricane-his attention, riveted to the rhythm, transformed him into a whirling dervish." Releasing his partner, he "went into a little neo-African footwork." Members of the band thought he was drunk, but "it was just that the music did things to him." When not dancing he stood in from of Ziggy Elman’s horn and "put on an emotional display of adoration that would have shamed a Father Divine fish fry." The next night "the worshipper" stood before the stand "growing more and more plastered by the music as the evening wore on." Male jitterbugs were soon joined by their female counterparts. Some observers described impresario John Hammond as a jitterbug. In response to the music, "he begins to move his head, his feet, and sometimes his whole body," said the New Yorker, His eyebrows go up, his mouth opens wide and reveals a set of even, gleaming teeth, and long-drawn-out ‘yeah’ slides out of his throat." But he does not "shag. He never dances at all."
Described as "dervishes"-violent, "nervous" and "plastered"-jitterbugs changed dance floor behaviour. In the past, noted a band booker, "it was only a dozen or two hep musicians that crowded the floor space around a band shell." Now, of a thousand crowded into a ballroom, "only 100 or so are actually dancing, while the others jam the floor and render themselves hysterical by the gymnastics of the hot horns getting in a groove." To get in free and be first in front of the bandstand, Jack McNulty and his friends went to the ballrooms two hours early, waited for the band bus, and helped carry the equipment backstage. They would stay there all night "unless our girls dragged us away to dance, but we left them, and went back up front. " Unexpected interactions with musicians often resulted. One night at a hall in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, bandleader Tony Pastor leaned over and asked Charles Hayden to dance with his vocalist to keep her warm. "There I was with that little darling in my arms and doing my best Fred Astaire."
Lewis A. Erenberg
Swingin’ the Dream
"I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal, also his fine art. Finally also the only kind of piety he knows, his ‘divine service."
Freidrich Nietzsche (1884-1900)
"Come, and trip it as you go/On the light fantastic toe."
"What is dancing for? I believe it is to generate…more vital power in soul, mind and body. Dancing is for the purpose of drawing together by the magic of rhythm…the sky and earth within the human psyche."
The Power to Change the World
Poetry, art, imagination, the creator spirit is life itself; the real revolutionary power to change the world; and to change the human body. To change the human body: here is the crisis, hic Rhodus, hic salta; which, as Hegel said ,is to be translated ‘here is the Rose, here begin to dance.’ To begin to dance; who can tell the dancer from the dance; it is the impossible unity and union of everything.
Norman O. Brown
"Dancing is a sweat job…When you’re experimenting you have to try so many things before you choose what you want, and you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion. This search for what you want is like tracking something that doesn’t want to be tracked. It takes time to get a dance right, to create something memorable. There must be a certain amount of polish to it. I don’t want it to look anything but accomplished and if I can’t make it look that way, then I’m not ready yet. I always try to get to know my routine so well that I don’t have to think, ‘What comes next?’ Everything should fall right into line and then I know I’ve got control of the bloody floor."
"…learn by practice. Whether It means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of the dedicated, precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God."
"The importance of movement, notable of what we may call group movement, as a stimulant to natural energies, is thoroughly recognized among primitive people; with them Dance holds a position equivalent to that which, in more advanced communities, is assigned to Prayer. Professor von Schroeder comments on this, ’It is remarkable to see how, according to the belief of primitive peoples, the dance seems to have a power and significance similar to that which, at higher stages of culture, is attributed to devout prayer.’ He cites the case of the Tarahumara Indians of Central America; while the family as a whole are laboring in the fields it is the office of one man to dance uninterruptedly on the dance place of the house; if he fails in his office the labor of the others will be unsuccessful. The one sin of which a Tarahumara Indian is conscious is that of not having danced enough. Miss Harrison, in commenting on the dance of the Kouretes, remarks that among certain savage tribes when a man is too old to dance he hands on his dance to another. He then ceases to exist socially; when he dies his funeral is celebrated with scanty rites; having ‘lost his dance’ he has ceased to count as a social unit."
From Ritual to Romance
Jessie L. Weston
"Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands."
"And beautiful maidens moved down in the dance, with the magic of motion and sunshine of glance."
Cities of the Plain
"Often I thought to myself, what a mistake to call me a dancer – I am THE MAGNETIC CENTRE TO CONVEY THE EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION of the orchestra."
"The dance is probably older than anything except eating, drinking, love and murder."
Things that have interested me
George H. Doran Co
"Up to a certain time life was conceived as a Dance, and after that tie life was conceived as a race. Medieval morality was full of the idea that one thing must balance another, that each stood on the side or the other of something that was in the middle and something that remained in the middle…Now since that break in history (i.e. the Renaissance) the Dance has turned into a Race. That is, the dancers lose their balance and only recover it by running towards some object, or alleged object which they do not yet possess. It is a lying object; a disappointing object.. One is rhythmic and recurrent movement, because there is a known enter; while the other is precipitate or progressive movement, because there is an unknown goal. The latter has produced all that we call Progress; the former produced what the Medievals meant by Order; but it was the lively order of a dance."
"I often wonder where is the American composer who will hear Walt Whitman’s America singing, and who will compose the true music for the American dance which will contain no Jazz rhythm, no rhythm from the waist down, but from the Solar Plexus,
THE TEMPORAL HOME OF THE SOUL
No composer has yet caught this rhythm of America- it is too might for the ears of most. But some day it will gush forth from the great stretches of earth, rain down from the vast sky spaces, and America will be expressed in some Titanic music that will shape it’s chaos into harmony, and LONG LEGGED, SHINING BOYS AND GIRLS WILL DANCE TO THIS MUSIC, MOUNTING HIGH ABOVE THE PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT."
"Beyond, in that distant future never glimpsed even in dreams, where the gods in their dances are ashamed to cover themselves, where all Becoming seems to be dancing and divine mirth…There, may every day on which we have not danced at least once be lost for us!"
"The Dance, in my opinion, is much more than an exercise, an entertainment, an ornament, a society pastime; it is a serious thing and in some aspects, even a holy thing. Every age which has understood the human body, or which has, at least, sensed something of the mystery of this structure, of its resources, of its limitations, of the combinations of energy and sensibility which it contains, has cultivated, venerated the Dance."
"I did not invent the dance, it existed before me, but it was sleeping and I woke it up."
"Ah, how sweet it is to dance in the clear mirage when the winds of horror are still and everything sings And feigning the laughter of the moon, finds courage to scare off the phantoms that run ahead of things."
"Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance."
"The world and time are the dance of the lord in emptiness the silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast
no despair of ours can alter the reality of things or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there
Indeed we are in the midst of it and it is in the midst of us it beats in our very blood Whether we want it or not
Yet we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose-cast our awful solemnity to the wind and join the eternal dance.
"Affirmation is the spontaneous motion of the body as it dances. Many churchgoers who consider themselves quite religious do not understand the nature of love or affirmation as much as some bar patrons, who celebrate the nature of their bodies and enjoying the spontaneous transcendence as they let themselves go with the motion of their being."
The Nature of Personal Reality
"Dance is not a sporting event, a pantomime, a contest, or a souped-up romance, although it shares qualities with them all at times. But neither is it an esoteric language that can only be ‘translated’ by initiates…What new dance audiences don’t know is how to perceive it, so they fasten on the personalities of the dancers, the stunts, the kissy stuff, the violence. And all the while, the dance is out there in plain sight."
"Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone."
For a Dancer WB Music Corp
"O, for long nights of worship, gay with the pale gleam of dancing feet, With head tossed high to the dewy air- pleasure mysterious and sweet!"
"Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is no mere translation of abstraction from life; it is life itself."
The Dance of Life (1923)
"Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made."
I would pipe-dance ye all
I would play a dirge-lament ye all
The eight harps with us as one harp.
The twelve above doth dance with us,
The whole on high is a dance.
(From the ‘Acts of John’ Gnostic Gospels)
The disciples make a ring around Jesus who stands in the center.
‘I would be saved
And I would save thee.
(grace) Sophia dances…I would dance,
I would pipe, oh dance ye all.
The Ogdoad plays to our dancing.
The Dodecad dances above us.
(Dance) Observe what I do, for it is for thee to follow.
(From the ‘Acts of John’ Gnostic Gospels)
Eminent is the virtue of the free course, when the dance is performed. Loud is the horn of the lustrator, when the Kine move in the evening. Manifest is truth when it shines; more manifest when if speaks; and loud it spoke, when it came forth from the Cauldron of Anwen, the ardent goddess.
Ancient Celtic saying
Book: "Baryshnikov In Black & White"
Book: "Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams" by Alvin Yudkoff
Book: "Isadora: A Sensational Life" by Peter Kurth
Book: "Markova: The Legend" by Maurice Leonard
Book: "Margot Fonteyn: A Life" by Meredith Daneman
Book: "Something in the Way She Moves: Dancing Women from Salome to Madonna" by Wendy Buonaventura
Book: "George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker" by Robert Gottlieb
Book: "Masters of Movement: Portraits of America's Great Choreographers" by Rose Eichenbaum
Back to Chrestomathy Next Page