Does Dancing for the Sake of Dancing Have Value?
This question has come to mind quite often over the past few years. It’s a massive topic that cannot be fully covered in one blog entry, but there are several thoughts I would like to share on the subject. I would also enjoy hearing your thoughts as well. Let’s dive in!
Growing up, I wanted to be on stage as a professional dancer. Thankfully my parents encouraged me to pursue activities that I loved. Looking back at the many years my friends and I have spent in the dance studio, I am driven to consider the value of all those hours toiling over dance technique and artistry. For professional dancers, the value seems to be that they have made their passion a career. But what about the adult who danced recreational when they were young? Or the child who has to wait until they are an adult to finally take their first dance class?
The gift of dance can be enjoyed by all ages and people groups. While we question the practicality of dance, it is unique as it combines the realms of sensibility and pure beauty. I currently enjoy watching a TV show about midwives helping the impoverished mothers of East London in the 1950s. As I was watching an episode I thought, “If only I was able to do something useful like that and help people in need”. Little did I realize that as a dancer and dance teacher, I do just that. Andy Warhol once said, “Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it”. I don’t have to be the biggest fan of Mr. Warhol’s work for that statement to ring true. Dancers and dance teachers play a vital role of helping the audience and student see and experience the beauty of the struggle, determination, and persistence that it takes to reach goals. In the midst of the struggle, dance elevates the audience’s emotions, whether that be joy, sorrow, fear, or pain. Dance helps us see the beauty (in whatever form that may be) of every situation. Not everyone takes time to notice beauty, but dance helps us see it.
A dancer, no matter age or background, knows the valuable lessons and skills learned through the unique experience of refining movement. I recently graduated from Belhaven University with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance and found myself confronted with questions of the practicality of my major. I suppose an artist of any kind struggles with that question. But then I remembered two things:
Dance is so much more than performing
- While many think of dancing as only the finished product on stage, those who have not continued on to reach professional dancer status have gone on to become the best in their respective fields. The non-dance teachers at Belhaven University have even mentioned that the best students have consistently been dance majors. I believe this is because dance is an art form that instills the values of hard work and dedication into its participants. Dancers are always striving towards excellence and to present their art form in an excellent manner. It only makes sense that a dancer’s mentality would carry over into other aspects of their life, even when they are no longer dancing. Not only that, but for those who were not able to grow up in the studio, dancing is a way to escape the day to day and encounter the beauty of movement.
Art for the sake of art is valued by God.
- Often in the Christian world, dance is only acceptable if it is for ministry. While I believe that dance is a very powerful tool for reaching others, more can be said for the validity of dance. In Francis Schaeffer’s book Art and the Bible, he talks about how the temple of the Lord had pillars that were covered in gold and finely ornate golden flowers. Research has shown that those intricate pillars did not have any structural purpose, unlike the other pillars described in the temple building instructions. Schaeffer goes on to explain that God ordered those beautiful pillars to be made, not for any practical purposes, but simply for their beauty. He wanted those pillars in His temple because their beauty declared His glory. When something is beautiful, in whatever what form of beauty it may take, that reflects the creative beauty of the heavenly creator. Therefore, it can be concluded that God approves and even encourages beauty for the sake of beauty, art for the sake of art, and consequently dancing for the sake of dancing.
We could go into a discussion about what kinds of beauty truly declares the glory of God. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, not just about what qualifies as beautiful but also your thoughts on the value and need for dance. However, the point of writing this entry is to simply say that dance IS valuable. Whether you do it as a career path or just for the joy of dancing, it is ALL valuable.