I revisited the research for my first book in this talk for the Peoria Fine Arts Society on February 13. It’s always useful to think about why dance matters.
I ended the talk with this:
One way in which to understand the joy, pleasure, and freedom of dance is as integration. A moment, sustained or fleeting, of when the insides and outsides of bodies are fused, the vertical and horizontal alignments in harmony, and bodies organically tied to one another and the environment. Dance offers this possibility of integration; I think that possibility is its power. For the dancer herself, it is the lived experience of that integration that is the most intoxicating. Of course, anyone who is a dancer knows that those moments are rare–and fleeting. But if you have experienced such a moment, you know that it might happen again.
Whether in dancing ourselves or in watching dance, the inability to fix or stop the moment of dance allows for continual transformation of our finite bodies. This makes the dancing body an elusive ground for evidence. But it also makes those dancing bodies particularly potent in possibility. The writer James Baldwin elegantly described the power of performance as “the unmistakable silence in which [the performer] and the audience re-create each other.” Dance resides within that hope of re-imagining what we see and what we are, of turning flesh into freedom.