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More From TOD the Book.


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Dance is basically using the human body to interpret music. Dance is a performance art, so instead of using a lifeless substance, like stone or pigment, it consists of living human beings acting upon their free will. Dance shows us the human body as good and beautiful. Dance is a universal human expression, and it’s been around in all cultures since before history began.

Yet all dances are not equally theological and mystical. In fact, dances such as ballet or tap are not particularly theological. Partner dancing (dance with a lead-follow relationship) is far and away the most theological of all the dances, because it is the partnership of the leader and the follower in the spirit of the music which contains and expresses the theology. Partner dancing is a relatively newer form of art with roots in the folk and court dances of the 17th and 18th centuries. It is sometimes referred to as ballroom or social dancing. I prefer the term partner dance as it most clearly defines the dancing I want to talk about. Social dancing could refer to line dancing or square dancing (square dancing has a very ecclesiological quality, that is it tells us about the Church), while ballroom dance usually refers to a specific set of partner dances that are approved by certain dance federations. In addition to these ballroom dance partner dance also includes club dances such as swing, salsa or Argentine Tango. All these dances have the same lead-follow relationship. Partner dance is a dance in which (typically) the man leads and the woman follows, and in doing so they interpret the music that they dance to. It is usually in a very spontaneous but sometimes it is choreographed. Yet even in choreographed dances they still should be lead/follow, because if the lead/ follow technique is missing the dance will lack some element of beauty and it will appear disconnected -because it is disconnected! Because it is based around the interaction of a man and woman in a complementary fashion partner dance has the ability to penetrate the mystery of being male and female in the image and likeness of God in a way that no other form of art has. It has the element which brings us into the very heart of the mystical, theological nature of the human body as male and female. It also trains our bodies in certain virtues, virtues that make our body more theological- that is, our bodies better express to us who is God. We look at partner dancing for our analogy because it’s a stylization of courtship, and by extension, a picture of the marriage of Christ and the Church as well as of the Holy Trinity. Partner dancing is unique and powerful because unlike all other dances it is fundamentally a Trinitarian relationship.

While I compared partner dance to performance dance, I prefer to say that partner dance is not a different kind of dance, but rather dance with a particular relationship. In this view a dance can have a type- it can be individual, partner or group, while we refer to how the dance fits the music as it’s style. Any style of dance can be done by any type- For example, East Coast Swing was developed out of tap dancing; in a sense it’s tap dancing with a partnership, while Cha-Cha is a popular style for line dances.

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