The Dancer

We humans are complicated creatures. I run for miles at a time, even though I’ve got nowhere to go, and nothing is chasing me, nothing but time and old age. Some people collect stamps, others watch birds; there’s no end to the ways that we occupy our time. Some people write stories, or draw, or paint, or make pottery out of clay. Some people write poetry. My daughter, my oldest, spends her time practicing the ancient art of dance.

Over the years that I’ve been taking her to dance practice and recitals, I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering the significance of dance. Why do we do it? What sort of purpose does it serve? I’m reminded of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society on why we read and write poetry.

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Poetry, beauty, romance, love… and dance.

Dance, a physical expression of emotion, the rhythmic movement of the human body. The endless, impossible pursuit of perfection.

To dance takes dedication and courage. It takes practicing before the sun comes up and finishing after everyone else has long gone to bed. It takes a willingness to incur injury in pursuit of your art. It takes being able to forget all that and have fun. To lose yourself in the moment, to revel in your ability, gliding from one motion to the next, emotions coming to form like firecrackers on the stage. Body and mind working together in unity.

As I’ve watched my daughter grow up over the years and explore her chosen pastime, I’ve thought deeply on the purpose of dance, and how easy it is for those of us with highly analytical and logical minds to discard or ignore the pure joy of artistic expression. I’ve seen reference to a debate over whether dance is an art or a sport. The question is wrongheaded, dance is both, of course. My daughter has grown to show poise and grace while on the lighted stage, performing before crowds that would freeze lesser individuals with stage fright. After every single performance I’ve seen I come away feeling more proud of her than ever.

This is her senior year of high school, which, one, means I’m officially old now, and two, in a few months she’s going to set out on her own big adventure. I know that with the dedication, courage, and ability she’s developed over the years she is going to be fantastic. While it will be bittersweet to see her leave home, I can’t wait to watch her start to fly. There will be hard times to come, as in anyone’s life, but through it all I hope she never stops dancing.

“Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”