“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” said Martha Graham, one of the world’s most distinguished modern dancers and choreographers. Not without reason did she express this beautiful thought.
In a world demarcated by imaginary, sometimes foolishly manmade, boundaries, a fine art like dance boldly trespasses such limitations. Dance sees no religious, regional, or geographical boundaries.
As a discipline, dance is made up of real sensations that find articulation in its various forms and styles. Body movements, facial expressions and the presence of an absolute emotional corridor with the audience allows the transmission of a life force, which otherwise resides deep in the throes of our being.
After all, life is a story waiting to unfold. Quotidian routines do not allow us to indulge in playful storytelling. As social creatures, we are wont to seek social interaction and bonding; it’s human nature to do so. What’s deep within us is seldom on our lips. What we bear within is almost never spoken about.
Social conditions are usually the culprits that shackle our ability to communicate freely using conventional language and vocabulary. Pina Bausch, a German danseuse, used to typically have more than 100 questions for every new dance recital she directed. These questions were usually directed to her troupe, an mélange of European descent, in German. Her dancers “sought answers with their bodies.”i Using dance as a language, thus, Pina and her ensemble were able to communicate seamlessly without the need for any scientific linguistic translation.
At the Tanztheater Wuppertal, where Bausch was director, dance fused with drama to create an exclusive genre of expression – dance theatre. The company voyaged extensively and visited European, Asian & American countries. When in India, it showcased a theatrical rendition of, roughly, the lives of women. Set in the soulful city of Kolkata, the Westerners designed their dance routines to resonate with an Eastern mindset using “eloquently performed, gliding solo dances”, which expressed “a profound faith in the body, what it can express and what it can experience.” ii
Often, people from varied ethnic, cultural and regional backgrounds seek their voice of freedom in expressionistic phenomenon such as dance. It acts as a conduit of energy and passion where words fail. There’s no holding back when employing this creative language of expression – nearly everything that’s unspoken can be conveyed lucidly through dance.
Think about this… Would you expect anyone to discuss the joyful, amourous trappings of adultery innocently by way of normal conversation? This seems unthinkable; a person doing so would be shunned by society, but the same topic expressed through dance would be consumed with softness and, perhaps, adulation. The expression of joy and love, even if adulterous, through dance would be diverse in exhibition, yet universal in acceptance.
When human experience is the landscape, appropriating realistic happenings to accommodate conformist social expectations is burdensome. There’s no room to manoeuvre autonomously using traditional linguistic communication. Is it right to constrict oneself due to such undemocratic practices?
Human emotion is not characterised by defined attributes. There’s no structure in feeling; it’s a random occurrence. In all this randomness, dance uses its prowess to reveal the incoherent, illogical and boundless internal human drama to the external social world. It’s the epiphany of life, and that’s why, it’s so total as both, a language and an experience.
Chief Writer at ASC Ushamrita
Different Cultures, Different Styles, One dance festival: