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Dance and Communication

Posted on December 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

On Wednesday I watched a young couple’s final private dance lesson before their forthcoming wedding next Saturday.

The engaged couple were not going to dance the traditional bridal waltz, but instead were dancing a slow romantic dance that had been skilfully choreographed to their favourite love song. Every facial expression, every body position and movement in that dance had this couple very clearly telling each other over and over, “I love you… , I love you… , I love you… “. But, not a word was spoken.

This slow romantic dance was immediately followed by a very lively Mambo. The dancing couple through this second dance said to me the observer, “yes, we love each other dearly and we are really going to have fun and enjoy our lives together”.

I have taught tertiary courses on communication, and have used the following scenarios to demonstrate to students that communication is not just about verbalisations and the written word.

“OK, pair up and when I say ‘go’, I want you to maintain eye contact with each other for thirty seconds only, but don’t communicate anything.”

We would then discuss this scenario as a class and generally the consensus would be that the eyes are very important in the communication process. And, of course they are.

A second scenario I sometimes used was to get one of the students to walk outside the classroom and to then come in and be very careful not to even fleetingly give eye contact to anyone in the room. This student had been told not to communicate anything to anyone.

Of course, it can not be done.

We can not, not communicate.

But, some forms of communication are more powerful than others.

And, what a powerful form of communication is DANCE.

My friend and Flamenco Dance expert Tom├ís Dietz sent me an article he had written on Flamenco. The article is called “What is Flamenco?”

His introduction reads:
Flamenco is a complex art form firmly woven into the fabric of Spain’s Andalucian culture, expressed through passionate singing, driving guitar accompaniment and intensely emotional percussive dancing that involves arching bitter-sweet body movements and shotgun footwork.*

Understanding that the dance’s history can be traced back to the 15th Century and the shocking atrocities suffered by the Spanish Inquisition and with the many different cultures involved, gives a whole new meaning when seeing the dance performed.

Modern Jive, Swing, Rock ‘N’ Roll, and several other dances have their roots in the dances danced by Afro-Americans back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I have written and published another article on the history of these dances called, “Hopping at the Savoy”. To these dancers at the time, DANCE, was probably more important as a communication tool than language itself.

There are thousands of different dances and many hundreds of styles of dance, and any one of them could be looked at as a communication tool. But if I was to give more exemplification here, this would become an epic and not just an article on dance and communication.

Dances are capable of expressing the whole range of human emotions. And, the more the dancers of the dance feel those emotions, generally the more convincing the dance performance will be.