Gotta dance?

Dance has rather been on my mind recently, for a number of reasons.  I’ve had to do a spot of dancing in The Sound of Gershwin, where I was taught how to do the Viennese waltz.  A colleague is about to be wed, which always leads to interesting speculation on the potential form of the reception – barn dance, disco, live band?  And I borrowed the Library of Doom’s DVD of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, quite possibly the only ballet I’ve watched all the way through.

Dance is not something that comes naturally to me, though I am improving slowly.  I can follow choreography, but it takes quite some time to learn it, and dance on stage only tends to look good once the steps have become second nature so that the performer can throw him or herself into it wholeheartedly with a sense of abandon.  When I can reach that point, dance becomes as joyous as song.  Unchoreographed dancing is even harder, though I will sometimes allow myself to let go and do more than simply wobble from side to side at a disco type event.  I much prefer a barn dance if I’m a wedding guest, as you get told exactly what to do, and my Christian upbringing has exposed me to many barn dances and ceilidhs over the years.

When I watch dance, I have a fairly low boredom theshhold, so the inevitable dream ballet of the 1940s and 50s musicals is like unto a torture to me unless it’s done really well.  Singin’ in the Rain is one of my favourite films, but I find that final, endless dance sequence rather tedious.  The dance breaks in the title number and ‘Good Morning’ don’t bother me, though, which is a little odd.  I think it may be because they spring more naturally from the characters, and I’m a plot and character man when it comes to film and theatre.  It is a truism of the musical that song takes over when words are not enough for the emotions, and dance takes over when even sung words get in the way.  When this is really true, I find the dance thrilling and involving.  Anna and the King’s polka is worth a hundred random dance breaks in less emotionally revealing moments.

Swan Lake, in case you’re wondering, was interesting.  I was variously intrigued, bored and thrilled.  I thought the men of the corps de ballet were far more effective as swans than they were in human form, and I appreciated the comic touches which are sprinkled throughout, particularly the ditzy girlfriend at the opera house.  The swans themselves were amazing.  I was enthralled by the way in which the choreography made them both sensual and dangerous, beautiful and awesome, just like the birds themselves.  Swans are graceful, but rather frightening at the same time.  That they could be both redemption and downfall for the hero prince seemed remarkably apt.  I doubt I’ll ever be moved to shell out the money to see a dance piece at the theatre, but I shall certainly keep an eye out for broadcasts of Bourne’s Car Man, or grab the DVD if we add it to stock.

It’s a funny thing dance.  For me it’s both a challenge and a thrill, and can cause me to be enthralled or to reach for the off switch.  It has a language which I know I will never speak, but it can communicate even to outsiders like me.  The joy that comes when I am abandoned to dance, as participant or observer, is a truly special joy.  Sometimes it feels like the most natural thing in the world.  Gotta dance!

  1. Hmm, I know what you mean about the bit in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’! I do like watching dance, though. There are few things more [struggles for the right word…] powerful, gut-wrenching (in a good way), soulful, beautiful, attractive, magnetic…than dance done well.

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