Popular Culture  •  October 2, 2002

Think and Dance

Nietzsche thought music was the best form of art because it is the most abstract. Another form of art that is just as abstract, if not more, is dance. It is interesting to note that dancing is often perceived as a feminine form of art. There is even a stereotype which assumes that most male dancers are gay. Gene Kelly even had a propaganda to promote dancing as a manly thing to do.

Dancing is one of the most irrational things a person can do. There is no logic to why anything must move in a certain way. Every move is unexplainable. If you try to reason, you fail to dance. This aspect of dancing is combined with the fact that dancing is one of the most intimate and personal forms of art, where the medium is yourself, which makes it difficult for a highly rational person to express himself in dancing. Men, especially, tend to construct images of themselves rationally and logically. A logically explainable self is an attractive proposition which boosts his confidence artificially.

Young Nietzsche wrote: “The great scientist von Baer sees the superiority of Europeans over Asiatics in their trained ability to give reasons for what they believe--something of which the latter are wholly incapable.” Though his view appears to have changed later in his life, this is a prevalent value in the West. One who can explain oneself is deemed more valuable. When one can explain a situation, one feels in control of it. There is something stabilizing, comforting, and safe in believing that there is a logical structure in everything that exists and happens.

Our emotions contradict this notion. Those who are emotionally immature have more to be gained by holding on to their rational, explainable selves. Their images of themselves which were carefully and rationally constructed like Lego blocks, must dominate their emotional selves, the process of which keeps the emotional selves forever immature. When they are required to dance, they panic.

Their first question: what is the point of dancing? Even if they can get over this initial question, to which there is no satisfactory answer, they face a whole string of questions one after another: what should the hands be doing? How do I know when to turn? Should I sway to every beat or every other beat? Do I hold her hands, or do I hold her waist? And so on... The questions can go on, and there really aren’t any answers to these questions. If you didn’t ask, the answers would simply present themselves.

The most important thing about dancing is that you enjoy it. Whether you are good or bad at it is a matter of taste. Those who are emotionally mature are in touch with their own irrational selves, and feel comfortable presenting their irrationality. Those who are constructed meticulously to fit certain rational orders, cannot afford to face their irrational selves, since what drives them to create such an impeccable fiction is their own emotional immaturity. I would not trust the words of anyone who can’t dance.