Using Grey Matter to Make Dance Matter

Why Dance Matters is a virtual event created by Nichelle Strzepek of Dance Advantage that rallies the dance community online to affirm the impact dance has on the lives of individuals and communities.  This week's post was written to be part of this event and help others see why dance matters.

“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” -- Agnes De Mille

            The brain weighs a mere 3 pounds, yet it is the most complicated organ in the human body.  It contains millions of neurons that fire daily and requires 25% of the blood that is pumped through the body with every heartbeat.  Each person’s brain holds enormous potential, and we, as dancers, have the opportunity and blessing to frequently tap into the potential of the right brain hemisphere, which is often neglected in today’s left brain analytical world.

            The left hemisphere is the logical side.  It deals with organization, rational thought, verbal communication and analytical processing while the right hemisphere helps process relationships, emotions, non-verbal communication and the kinesthetic sense.

            Dancers use the right brain hemisphere constantly, and it is when the kinesthetic sense and wealth of emotions from the right brain dominates that dance becomes magic. 

            According to the Llewellyn Encyclopedia Online, magic “draws its power from a deep well in the center of the human soul.”  It is the deep well of emotions in the human soul that is at play when a dance seems to take on a life of its own or when dance transcends boundaries that would otherwise be seen as barriers.

            The kinesthetic sense and non-verbal communication skills are the magic that is at work when a special needs child is reached through dance.  Each December, New England Ballet in Orange, Connecticut, performs an Adaptive Nutcracker that allows children with special needs to dance alongside typical peers and overcome their disabilities.  A Waltz of the Flowers, performed in wheelchairs, transports the audience to a utopia where anything is possible.

            The emotional passionate power was at work when Noble Barker, Founder and Artistic Director of New Haven Ballet in Connecticut developed pancreatic cancer.  Mr. Barker’s vision was to use the power of dance to change the life of every person in the community, and his illness left the Connecticut dance community without words.   Instead, the groups of dancers that he had touched brought a dream to life, ignored and overcame obstacles, communicated love when words seemed empty, produced a benefit concert to raise money for medical bills and gave Noble Barker a reason to keep fighting. 

            That same power was the motivating force behind a group of dancers that united when a fellow dancer’s life ended far too soon.  In January 2012, dancer Eva Block, was killed in a tragic fire in Poughkeepsie, New York at the age of 21.  Eva’s friends and teachers from across the United States came together in a performance that established a dance scholarship in her memory, wordlessly expressed their grief and gave her mother a brief image of hope.

            Through dance we access our right brain and use it to stretch ourselves, reach beyond our comfort zones, surmount obstacles, think less and do more, reach out to others, express what words cannot, become powerful and make a difference.  Dance matters because it enables us to use our right brain to accomplish what the left brain may deem impossible.