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Personal Philosophy of Dance:

Dance is the Human Experience Expressed & Exposed

Allison McArthur
Dance 261: Orientation to Dance
October 10, 2016

As dancers, it is supposed to be easy to explain what dance is or what it means to us. At

times, it is quite simple other times, it deems impossible. To understand dance is to understand
its meaning and the intentions. The intentions and meaning is not always obvious so there must
be a kind of foundation to lay down the cornerstones of what dance is. Dance is the human
experience expressed through movements in relation to music to better understand a concept or
idea not easily expressed through words. The human experience encompasses the emotion and
crave for meaning than humans desire; it is life itself, in all its forms. And in my opinion, that is
why we dance. Dance is to connect to the audience, create meaning by choreographers, interpret
music in a unique way and to connect the body and the spirit.
By connecting to the audience and making every moment a personal link with the
audience a dance can create a lasting impact. Creating a personal link between audience member
and dancer fulfills the idea of dance being the human experienceeven between two strangers.
This kind of connection began with the beauty of movement and its extravagance. Audience
members adored ballerinas in their purest form. In the beginning with ballet, the development of
the classical ballet training stressed regal elegance, grand carriage, absolute control of the body,
perfection of skill, symmetrical balance and the idealization of the human body.1 These
characteristics are necessary for certain genres of dance. Howeverto dancethese
characterizations are not essential. The aesthetics of dance has evolved and will continue to
define beauty in different forms. Dance began with this appeal of the movement being beautiful
because of the elegance in ballet and dance will always have that appeal. However, dance will
have this kind of appeal in every genre because it is beautiful its own wayincluding modern
which rebels against the high demands of ballet. The audience connects with beauty in regal,
1 Chrystelle Trump Bond, An Aesthetic Framework For Dance

gracefulness or raw, quirky-ness. Dance must connect to the audience to create this personal
experience. Dance is intended to cause the audience to marvel at the beauty and elegance that all
forms of dance produce. Without the beautiful aesthetic of dance, it becomes plain. Creating
beauty is not found only in the superhuman abilities of ballet dancers but in the intricate
movements of modern, lyrical, jazz and ballet dancers. Audience members have the chance to
view the human experience through dance and that is the intention of performing to audiences
for them to understand the human experience in such a different and unique way.
For dance to emanate in a powerful way, it should produce a kind of meaning; even if the
meaning is not the same to every dancer in the piece, member in the audience or person in the
choreography processdance should have meaning. A meaning does not have to be obvious. A
meaning does not have to be written on costumes or spelled out for every audience member. If
this is the case, there is no room for interpretation for the individual. Every person can find a
different meaning in a dance but every dance should be based on a foundational meaning. If there
is no meaning to a dance, it has no intention therefore no purpose and thus useless. If a dance is
to merely cause the audience to have joy or recognize happiness that is a purpose in and of itself.
Dancing to create joy, to evoke mourning, to remember history are all purposes that create
meaning and touch those who are watching and to those performing. To dance with purpose is
essential in being a dancer. If there is no purpose, why do anything? Dancers should dance to
create meaning, dance to make connections and dance to make a lasting impact on others.
Creating meaning through the expression of these emotions exposes the human experience in
such an obvious and showcased way. Dance exposes the obvious. Dance expresses what is
within. Dance should emanate emotion and evoke meaning that creates a lasting impact to
expose the human experience.

Dance, in my experience, is a result of sound. To express different arrangements of beats

and instruments is dancing. Dance is not mimicking sound but expressing each measure of
music. A dancer should take advantage of the gaps in music, use hesitation and every vibrato to
convey the movements meaning. It is essential to listen to the music, every layer, understand the
lyrics, seeing every aspect to the music a dancer would dance to. Through unique interpretations
of pieces of music and a thorough understanding of the music there can only be good results,
give a choreographer a score that stirs both personal reaction and fuses with stylistic interpreters
and you may strike gold.2 This kind of understanding and connection to music is necessary for
dancers to convey and interpret music properly. The world is full of music or different beats and
sounds. There is the story of a women I was told who performed a dance to no music. She based
her movements of the sounds of the streets outside the building. There were men who would play
instruments on the sidewalk, there was rain and there were cars. When the performance came,
she opened the doors of the building, and what emanated from there was her music. She danced
the human experience in a new, unique way. Her interpretation of the sounds were intricate and
precise. Her music was humans experiencing life and she expressed that exactly. Music must
move a dancer and a dancer must be able to seem to move the music, A piece of music may
express your sentiments or conjure a mood for lovemaking of lull you to sleep at night. But, if
the score lacks the kind of pulse that can be transferred to limbs and torsos in repose and in
flight, the [dance] will be both dreary and pretentious.3 Using noises or music to your advantage
gives dancers the ability to fully express the emotions trying to be conveyed and creates
2 Allan Ulrich, Not All Music is Fit for Dance
3 Allan Ulrich, Not All Music is Fit for Dance

dynamics in the dance. That is what dance should be conveyed as, a direct and meaningful
interpretation of pieces of music that help audiences better understand the purpose. Effective
interpretations of music assist dancers in exposing the raw emotions that music can bring to
meaning of the dance.
The most important aspect of dance is to be able to connect the body and the spiriteven the
soul. Dancing allows complete release of all else in the world and gives time for a personal
connection with your soul. The body is the instrument in dancing and should be used with
respect. Even Martha Graham stated, The body is a sacred garment. Its your first and last
garment; it is what you enter this life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated
with honour, and with joy and with fear as well. But always, though, with blessing.4 If the body
is this sacred garment, as Martha states, then the soul that connects to the body in dance is the
core of all movements. The soul is the base of all movement and is the passion within dancers.
Dance allows the body to be the instrument of the soul. An instrument reveals passion, emotions,
reality, as well as evoke meaning and exposing what the soul desires to express. The soul is the
foundation of all movement. It is the fire within all dancersthat desireto express all that the
body experiences.
So, when others ask why I, Allison McArthur dance, it is for these reasons exactly. I desire to
connect with the audience to help them more understand my intentions, to evoke emotion and
meaning to individuals through having meaning in all forms of dance, to interpret music in an
effective way and to connect the body and the spirit so that my soul might express my desire to
dance. This second semester of my college dance career, I did not take a single dance class.
Because I never took a dance class I had no opportunity to experience any of these things and it
4 Martha Graham, I Am A Dancer

has affected my life negatively. Dance creates positive energy in lives. The passion that is
expressed in dance in my opinion can be expressed no other way, not in words or actions but
through dance only.

Bond, Chrystelle Trump. "An Aesthetic Framework for Dance." Journal of Physical Education,
Recreation & Dance 58, no. 3 (1987): 62-66.
Graham, Martha. I Am A Dancer. This I Believe, Vol. 2 (1952)
Ulrich, Allan. Not All Music is Fir for Dance. SF Gate. (2001)