On the Importance of Dance

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 26, 2016
Volume V!, No. 239/299

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Why Dance Is a Life Necessity

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

Dance and dancing inspire transcendence and spirituality… the primal aspect of life is movement. Without movement there is no action, no speech, nor is there life experience. If there is no movement, there is no growth, and there is no progress. If none of these is there, then there is no life, and no universe. Dance is more than mere movement, it is definite, vital step, a step with a sound, and an aesthetically impressive movement of artistic splendor. Ancient Persians in the rituals of practice of Zoroastrianism held dance as a holy activity and a part of their worship. These practices commended in Avesta, the Holy book of Zoroaster (Zaratustra), are still practiced by Zoroastrians and Manicheans. In Islam, the Sufis and Dervish have their own dances. We know about the whirling Dervish, dancing to a frenzy to fuse with transcendence.

In our recent trip to India, I made a purposeful effort to learn the origins of Indian dance. Unlike South American dances such as the Argentine Rumba, Brazil’s Samba and other severe and what appears to be worldly and erotic dances, Indian dance is a the road map to spirituality and transcendence. Even Gandhi, in his daily worship, would engage in these mystical movements. I learned that the ancient dance of Adavu, the Nritta Bharatnatryam technique is practiced by almost all one billion Indians. In India, as body movements are perfected, (angikam), movement will be accompanied by speech (vacchiham), and adornment (aharya).

Over the years, with perfection of body movements, classic dancing has evolved. Ballet is universally accepted to be the ultimate in evolution of dance and body movement.

In his writings, the creator of ballet Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), court composer to Louis XIV has repeatedly stated that God often expresses himself through the meaningful and graceful movements of our bodies. He insisted that getting closer to the creator may be accomplished equally through going to the cathedral or going to see a ballet. Lully was right on the mark. He, himself, as a 14 year old boy, saw very little possibility in the Jewish ghettoes of Florence, Italy. He immigrated to France. Through hard work, brilliance, planning and studies, his meteoric rise took him to become the personal dance teacher to Sun King and the King’s Court Composer. On his death bed (he died of gangrene of the foot and probably complications of diabetes mellitus) he said that he owes all to “dance”, especially to ballet.

A dancer, especially a ballerino(a), brings us peace, joy, a sense of purification and elation. We are fortunate to have Carolina Ballet in Raleigh. Let’s support it. In addition, let’s approach it with enjoyment, entertainment, reverence and pride. The recent production, Debussy’s La Mer, was most impressive.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He is a Raleigh, North Carolina writer and dramaturge, and the 2016 winner of NC Award in Fine Arts.
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