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Why We Dance

Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming

Kimerer L. LaMothe
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Why We Dance
    Book Description:

    Within intellectual paradigms that privilege mind over matter, dance has long appeared as a marginal, derivative, or primitive art. Drawing support from theorists and artists who embrace matter as dynamic and agential, this book offers a visionary definition of dance that illuminates its constitutive work in the ongoing evolution of human persons.

    Why We Danceintroduces a philosophy of bodily becoming that posits bodily movement as the source and telos of human life. Within this philosophy, dance appears as an activity that humans evolved to do as the enabling condition of their best bodily becoming. Weaving theoretical reflection with accounts of lived experience, this book positions dance as a catalyst in the development of human consciousness, compassion, ritual proclivity, and ecological adaptability. Aligning with trends in new materialism, affect theory, and feminist philosophy, as well as advances in dance and religious studies, this work reveals the vital role dance can play in reversing the trajectory of ecological self-destruction along which human civilization is racing.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53888-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, Performing Arts, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Why Dance?
    (pp. 1-15)

    I want to dance. I have always wanted to dance. Ever since I can remember wanting to do anything, I have reveled in the free feeling of moving through space—skipping and leaping, limbs lunging and reaching for an experience of joy that I know is waiting there just for me.

    More often than not, I have felt this desire when I am in nature—atop a mountain, on a seashore, shaded by forest, or buffeted by fronds of a grassy field. Nature is movement—nature is moving—every twig, worm, rock, and cloud. Th e movement that nature is...

  5. 1 To Dance Is to Matter
    (pp. 16-38)

    I begin as I always do—on the floor, on my back, knees pulled up to my chest, palms wrapped around my shins. Breathing in, I sink my inner belly down, push my ribs out, and then let go. Air escapes. Tension escapes. Patterns of held energy escape. The buzzing of my brain comes into view. I am ready for it to yield. There are other movements I want to make.

    I pull another breath deep into my torso and let go. The rushing air sets off a cascade of awakening sensory cells. New shapes of inner awareness appear. A...

  6. 2 To Dance Is to Evolve
    (pp. 39-58)

    I need to walk. Alone. On the land. I can feel it.

    For the past few days I have spent my movement time running along the road. Often before a busy day, striding along a hard, straight, narrow band of tar helps me organize my thoughts, calm my fears, and prepare for the challenges to come. I breathe hard. I sweat. I relax.

    In between running days I have been dancing in my studio, which, at the moment, feels too small. While usually good for helping me focus on the small spans of sensation that strong movements require, today the...

  7. 3 To Dance Is to Know
    (pp. 59-79)

    Why do you dance?” I ask. I am in the dance studio of a private New England high school. The students, all girls but one, are sitting on the floor. I look around the circle of faces. It is the third day of my residency here and my last class with these students. I have been talking a lot to them—about Martha Graham, about human evolution, about dance as a vital art. We have been dancing together. Now I want to hear from them. No one speaks.

    A bold voice breaks the silence. “Because I need another gym credit,”...

  8. 4 To Dance Is to Be Born
    (pp. 80-107)

    I am lying in a long, white tub. Somewhere beneath me are its clawed feet. On each side of me its porcelain sheen slopes up, scrolls over, and spills out. When tapped, the tub rings. I am not tapping. I am waiting. I am waiting for the breathtaking squeeze of a contraction. It is coming. My pregnant belly juts up and out of the watery depths, an island of hope that this arc of experience will soon end.

    The contraction is near. It is inevitable. I try not to be afraid. Breathing in and down through my bodily self, I...

  9. 5 To Dance Is to Connect
    (pp. 108-136)

    The midwife hands Geoff a pair of scissors. He cuts the cord, which is more like a rope—thick, slick, and knobby. At first the cord resists, as I did, and then yields to the sharp press of the shears. It is over. We are two. Little Leif is one, an individual, his own person, breathing. I am alone in my bodily self.

    I am flooded. Waves of relief, joy, and discomfort splash through me. It is over. I did it. My legs shake beyond recognition. The tub that was once a comfortable, holding arc is now hard and cold....

  10. 6 To Dance Is to Heal
    (pp. 137-170)

    My eyes crack open to a promising glow. Morning. Spring light hums through the room, rounding out hard walls and square corners. I feel no pain. I am encouraged. I lie very still, savoring these moments that I know, too soon, will end. I breathe in, exhale slowly, and begin to think about getting up. A stab of fear punctures my heart. Will it hurt?

    To be safe, I begin by moving my toes, ankles, and feet, rolling this way and that. I point and flex, point and flex, and then straighten my legs hard enough to stretch my bones....

  11. 7 To Dance Is to Love
    (pp. 171-202)

    I wind my way along the edgeof the pasture into the woods. The path is narrow, nearly choked with brambles. I have not been here for a few days to beat them back. Thorns pierce my thighs. I plow through.

    A clearing opens around me. I stand in the center of a ring of red pine and locust trunks whose vertical reach I lengthen to match. I breathe up with their branches and sink my toes as deeply into the ground as I imagine their roots can go. I move with an earth breath, allowing my exhalation to root...

  12. Earth Within
    (pp. 203-210)

    I walk down to the pondand pause in a clearing along its edge where we keep our canoe. The smooth face of a big rock beckons. I crouch upon it, eyes skimming the water. One duck and then another burst into and out of my view in a frenzy of splashes. As the excited waves in me and before me settle toward a flat horizon, one large round of ripples does not. It persists.

    I don’t recognize the pattern. What movement is making that shape? Is it a school of fish? A beaver? I attend more closely. The ripple-round...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-262)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-288)