How can I explain the power of some moments of performance? Sometimes through dancing you experience the deep pleasure of simply being alive, of moving, of breathing. Dancing is so intensely physical, so ecstatic, so personal. When I dance in MacMillan’s The Song of the Earth, I’m in touch with universal truths that I would never have the courage to put into words; to the very core of my being I feel the joy of life, the sorrow of death, the desperate rage of struggling against the laws of nature, and the peace that finally comes from accepting those laws. At moments like these, dancing remains what it was in prehistory: a religious experience in the most profound sense. […]
For Michelangelo, the human body was an instrument of the soul, the noble means by which we reach towards God, and in rare performances I have felt something similar. I hesitate to speak of such things -to speak of them is almost to profane them, or to risk the chance that they will never happen again- but every now and then, in a ballet like The Song of the Earth or Swan Lake, I begin to understand the ancient belief that the true artist is possessed by some power, some spirit. I feel touched and elevated by something that far transcends the merely human; I sense that for a few moments I am the privileged instrument for higher truths […] and I feel deeply blessed to be part of an art form that somehow allows the wordless communication of matters so deep, so important. Make no mistake about it -at its highest, dance involves both body and soul. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t still be dancing.
-Karen Kain, Movement Never Lies: An Autobiography
(she signed my copy “For Meg – hang on to the joy!” …I couldn’t at the time, but I’m finding it again. And that’s what counts)
(Photo by Arnold Genthe, from The Art of the Dance, p53)
The dancer of the future will be one whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of that soul will have become the movement of the body. The dancer will not belong to a nation but to all humanity. She will dance not in the form of nymph, nor fairy, nor coquette, but in the form of woman in her greatest and purest expression. She will realize the mission of woman’s body and the holiness of all its parts. She will dance the changing life of nature, showing how each part is transformed into the other. From all parts of her body shall shine radiant intelligence, bringing to the world the message of the thoughts and aspirations of thousands of women. She shall dance the freedom of woman.
-Isadora Duncan “The Dance of the Future” 1902 or 1903
Collected in The Art of the Dance, p54-63
For this is my message, the message of a dancer.
Within your being, within your mind and your living body
Lies a world of joy and power.
Within you lies a kingdom that you know little of.
The kingdom of fearless living, of sharing love, and the unfolding glory
Of your infinite being.
All this and more is yours.
Cease from creating a world of lifeless machines and learn how
To use your living ones.
Cease from your pride of conquest and learn to realize
Your inheritance of joy.
Dance in the morning -Dance in the night.
The dance of victory and joyous praise.
Let your children dance and your aged dance. Let all things move in the rhythm of Life.
Let us dance alone and let us dance together!
Bending with the tides and swinging with the stars.
Beating with the heart drums and running with the winds.
For visions will come and powers will expand.
Love will renew itself and the mind grow clear.
O Dancers of earth in the East and the West, tell the spirit’s meanings
With courage and love. In the temple of old, they had a saying
“They entered as humans and left as gods.”
Our task is for beauty, for freedom and joy.
We begin in self-limiting, we end as light.
We begin in art worship, we end in God’s prayers.
For our dancing feet bring peace and rhythms of another world. Our moving arms cast
the sun rays in gestures, uplifted and wide. Our bodies move in rhythmic spirals,
powerful and free. For we are the dancers upon the mountain.
Come and join us now, for we bring peace in the beauty of the dance,
Divine and Free.
-Ruth St. Denis (“How Beautiful the Mountains”)