Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Song and Dance of the "Extreme Social Hominid" - part 3

The Dance

" That place between your steps as you
dance... that is where the real dance lies."
Pierre Dulane

Ah, the dance! Here we are talking about a quality that has likely, in some form, accompanied all of our hominid lineages and those creatures before them, and so on. This is indeed an ancient skill, and though humankind has put a unique flavor to it, it goes back millions of years.

There are few truly primal, direct ways to reach our primitive cooperative yearnings than the moving pattern. A good dance reaches deep into our essence. It is connected to primordial needs associated with powerful urges of survival, kin ship, and meaning. As mentioned, humankind is the supreme social hominid and has achieved an unsurpassed skill of intraspecies interaction that favors survival in multidimensional ways. For example, movement elements of dance provide venues for sexual discourse or for expressing varying belief systems by reflecting common cognitive patterns and associations. From an evolutionary perspective, this can favor and optimize survival behaviors such as procreation and tribal bonding.

But that is not the point.

Homo sapiens have become a master of creating pattern associations linked to these survival mechanisms. They likely stem from the need to have some control and power over nature and the unknown. Complex associations became outgrowths of these profound origins. For example, evolutionary sociologists researching the origins of religiosity have come up with two plausible theories. Religion may be a by-product of some deeper mechanism for survival, or it could, in itself be a survival mechanism.

These pattern associations did not necessarily have to reflect reality as it was, they just needed to favor the primordial call to survive. Fascinating as these investigations may be, the roots of dance likely grew with concepts related to cooperative behavior and fundamentally predates elaborate religiosity and ritual. That is, dance seems to lie at the core, and like the layers of an onion, is followed by other human societal elements such as budding religious beliefs and cultural tribalism.

Indeed, dance has been called the silent language. It is an immensely effective communicative tool that even today has the power to bridge language and cultural gaps. Because it is a core quality of the extreme social hominid, it transcends many of the cultural barriers that have surfaced across the social history of humankind. It is a quality that harkens back to a time of unwritten rules and small tribal groups.

Dance serves a profound educational purpose. It teaches the art of cooperation and behavioral practice, and to some extent, acts as a primal moral compass. It reflects a mirror image of the society from where it emerges. It blends the cognitive features of humankind with emotionally vivid or primitive reactions. That place where they meet can be considered the dance; the art, the meaning.

This is the point; This is the space between the steps.

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