Dance says a lot about the lives of people. It is sheer utopia, by its very nature, since it aims to give the appearance that man can escape the law of gravity, at least for a short while. And it also reveals social change: like the music which accompanies it, it is evolving faster than other dimensions of society. Today, dance and its astounding evolution is heralding fundamental shifts. On the one hand, attending a dance performance encourages us to believe in a poetic version of the world. One that describes the physical, sensual and social idealization of an era.
On the other hand, dance says something significant about how we like to live our life and more importantly, how we would like to live.
In ancient times, dance was first and foremost a religious act; everything was prayer, a gift to the gods; and this is the case for dance more than any other human activity since it aspires to fly towards the heavens, by escaping the real world. Then, dance in society became secularized and it split in two: ‘dances of the folk’ became joyful and fraternal, with sensual and erotic energy, and in a spirit of openness; and for powerful people dance maintained its ritualized form of interaction with very specific codes, with categories, symbols and ways asserting a desire to belong to a tamed and hierarchical society where women are dominated by men, and where some men dominate all other men –hierarchical society that powerful people are a part of, with its ruthless hierarchy of the corps de ballet.
Historically, dance was also the place of social reproduction: for centuries, a ball was the place where children met their future spouses, chosen by their parents. Then a major innovation, gone unnoticed, almost a century ago, changed everything: the portable turntable allowed young people, first, in the United States and then elsewhere to dance in places of their choice, in the absence and supervision of their parents and thus to live out their sexuality in freedom.
Since then, many other developments have transformed dance, ushering in wider transformations. First, dance became pretty much the same among social classes. Then, in the mid-20th century, people began to dance alone, initially in a precisely choreographed manner, then, entirely devoid of rules, with everyone doing as he pleases in a frenzy with a repetitive pattern, so creating, in a utopia of absolute freedom, a reality of utter loneliness, where all seek harmony within themselves, as a sense of bliss fills their body.
Today, as part of an evolution that could be the last one, these two approaches–classic and hypermodern style–blend; a growing number of people in nightclubs, music festivals or at home, dance next to each other, playing different songs through their own headphones. A crowd of people with autism, confirming the narcissistic, masturbatory trend in society where everyone (individuals, communities, nations) is closed off to others. It could signal troubled times ahead, where after exhausting its vital strengths, the world would give an incredible sense of fatalism to the warning of Jean de La Fontaine, one that would prove premonitory: “Well, then, dance now!”
However, speaking from a personal point of view, I’d rather believe that the future lies in choreographic altruism, where everyone’s pleasure will be to make his partner(s) dance, bear with them, and help them get off to a strong start.
I will feel reassured about the future of the world only when I see this on the dance floors. Things are not taking the direction of choreographic altruism.