Musing on Dance:

a priori knowledge in our DNA or just  boogie madness

5..6..7..8 and


The human art form of dance has very early non-art, non-human origins that predate a lot.  We know that 25 million years ago an eight-hour “mating dance” was done by seahorses as the necessary precursor to getting it on.  In sea grass hideaways, variations on that same dance are done today. No one says that this seahorse “gavotte” is art, because in order to be art, rules have to be met.  for example, a guy from Queens dancing every night at a disco dreaming of success is not art. But Travolta dancing a choreographed disco dance with the specific intent of emotionally moving an audience is art.  Travolta owes a debt of gratitude to those seahorses and other animals who perform mating dances because a straight line can be drawn from them to Pavlova, to Isadora Duncan, to Fred Astaire, to George Balanchine, to Michael Jackson, to Ja-lo, to Baryshnikov.

Before language, dance told stories. Dance was the medium of myth.  Dance was the medium of talking to the gods to ask for rain or protection or a good harvest.  Dance had the power to lift a person to a higher plane by putting the dancer into trance states--it made you "high."  At the beginning, Dance was free-form without any rules, you moved as you felt. Dance could be heightened by song and even more so by beat.  Dance could make a man feel powerful, express his sorrow and his joy, identify him as an individual, show his prowess and, yes, there was always the sex thing.


Ape stood.

Ape discovered fire and ate cooked food and his brain grew.

Ape/man made tools, hunted, sang and danced and drew on cave walls.

Man learned Language, which bound families into tribes. 

Man learned to plant and agriculture took a village.

Man learned to barter/sell and commerce demanded towns. 

More than a few men in a town led to fighting, so towns needed civilization.

Civilization requires order.

Order requires rules.

Rules require the power to enforce them.

Here we go.  the ruler ruled and everyone else paid taxes and tributes upward.  There was time and money and boredom and didn’t those "virgin dancers" amuse....  Court entertainments comprised of music, dance and special effects came much earlier than one might suppose and, of course, divided the classes.

Worked in theory.  Who wouldn't want to be rich and refined?  but the lower classes didn’t have the education to see dance as anything other than what it has always been--fun, sweaty and no special shoes required.

Dance mightily vexed the priest, who tried to control it by decrying it in all forms as morally "dangerous."  But this vexed the ruler as well, who now had two options:  sneak down to that other part of town to indulge or select certain elements and mix them into court Dance. As popular as court dance became, option one held sway.

Remember, we are not talking about the 19th century, the Middle Ages or even Ancient Rome.  Every form of dance we know now (with the exception of couples dance) was in place before the rise of Egypt.  A band might have featured percussion, harp (the precursor of piano), guitar, lyre, flute, clarinet, do we know?  Check the extant hieroglyphs.

Dance is about sex and exuberance born of confidence.  America spent 124 years thinking that any European dance form was innately superior and the only notable homegrown product was the square dance.  Once we understood and embraced who we were as a free people the USA (in the remarkable span of 10 years) owned world dance and owned it for a century.

The war to end all wars...didn’t.  But it did pull back the curtain to reveal an old titled white man as just a man without divine rights to anything at all. At last, women got the vote.

African-Americans not only survived having had their own heritage shamefully stripped away, now gave this country a beat and a flavor that became a heritage for all of us to celebrate and treasure,

Americans from every ethnicity and station had the chance to move up--generating hope and spirit that every dance form soaked up.  successive generations of youth took what they wanted from the past and pushed hard toward the future.

Immigrants arrived from all over the globe and smashed the caste system for good.  Men and women who could not dance with the partners they wanted to, danced alone and brought us back full-circle to when Man first stood upright and boogied...just because he could.

America is dance.

if for any reason we let that slip away...shame on us.

PLease Check out for more in depth information:

the  Dance history time line.

The individual American Dance movements.  

All the dance clips are worth a look at least I think so.

The references list  

Dance has been a pleasure from the enjoy

DavidW. Hahn

cha cha cha.

slide together

and dip.


hold  and...dip

twirl her in fling her out

swing out twirl back

glide step... repeat.

glide left hop turn

Slow dip. hold till end of music.

quick, quick slow... turn


Enter the man saying he was holy that he alone talked to god and would interpret his plans.  No one could say he was wrong so they listened...smiling he said part of the plans were his pick of vestal virgins...and who could say he was wrong. He said dance was too dangerous for everyone and he commandeered  it.

...Enter the ruler. 

Saying, he received power by divine right (no one could prove he didn’t),  virginity was not so important.

because he held onto power with an army. 

And he controlled the army through dance. 

An army must think of itself as a unit--not as individuals. 

Spinning and dancing produced that euphoric trance state which overcomes fear of battle. 

Marching, another form of dance, was employed as well: unison, formation , set patterns all promote the “we” the ruler's army required.

The strongest man observed but said nothing

hesitate and...

Dance rhythmic movements set in a pattern whose purpose is to convey or evoke emotion and desire, or to tell a story