Dance: The Beautiful Art

It is natural to want to dance and move whenever we hear music. With the drum beat of a military march, we want to march in time; the smooth circles of a waltz have the power to make us feel like twirling forever; and a lullaby makes us lilt our bodies into sleep. Dance is a natural expression and is a natural response to music that is heard externally or sometimes but rarely, it is in resonance with the sounds of inner joy, to which only the individual is privy.

Most people wish to dance, or enjoy dancing. It is a feature in the life of most people throughout the world who reveal the differences in their culture through the different types of music and the different styles of dance movement they develop in their traditional art. There is a different between the dance of a country barn dance or western line-up with a country band and the rap dancing with its accompanying intonation and sounds; between the tap dancers metallic beat to a popular tune and the ballet dancers soft pointed feet describing the patterns of a classical piece; the passionate guitar and strong heel beats of a Spanish flamenco and the smooth swirls of an Austrian circular waltz to the strains of a violin.

Music provides the powerful influence which we seek to express in movement and dance. In addition, if our own emotions are moved, we can convey how we feel by injecting our emotions into our physical movements. If music uplifts us, we may dance but wish we could fly and the best we can do is to raise our arms and elevate our bodies from the floor as best we can. If the music on the other hand is sombre, we would rather dress in garments of grey and drop our heads to respond in heavy deliberate movements to show what the music intends.

For the professional dancer, it is music which dictates the mood and demands that a dancer surrenders his body to that music, not just for his own pleasure, but for the sake of a wider purpose. Then the dancer surrenders to music as if it were the conductor, as he seeks to make his body its complete or final instrument .The dancer can only surrender to the music if he wishes his body to serve to express its influence. To dance to a rhythm without conscious thought is a pure reaction – it is not an art.

Dancers are agents of the music – there to express something of the spirit of his inspiration of the composer. If we like the music we are asked to dance to, there is an easy relationship and harmony between the music, the source of it and our bodies. It is all in tune and the dancer can add the ingredient of his own intelligence and pour his feeling through his body language. If we are not attracted to the music then the dancer is a mere puppet. In the future, to use a dancer without him having conscious desire to express the music will be seen as dancer abuse! It is not a true and fine example of the art form at all unless music and dancer are as one.

If we hear discordant sound and it is the fashion to move to it, one must be very skilled or insensitive or perhaps both in wishing to express chaos and discord. Life’s real discordant notes are only too well known in the reality of living without having to bold type it all. Modern times are difficult with little rhythm, melody or harmony in any popular music.

In discothèques the lighting makes jagged vibrations through the chaos and to a dancer who is sensitive to the loveliness and the harmonies of inspired music, it creates an atmosphere which is unintelligent, purposeless and insane. There can be no reason why such occasions are not banned because of the noise, so as to preserve the health and the hearing of everyone concerned. The brains of all who participate are damaged – to what extent, only the future will reveal. Participants do not deserve the name dancer but often are enslaved by drugs and the hypnotic drum beats.

Modern music is not harmonious. Therefore a dancer’s body must become jerky and strained, stretched to an extreme tension, tested beyond its inherent strength, making demands which are acrobatic, exaggerated, unnatural and unattractive in the main. Beauty is the ingredient which is neglected, even forgotten. And in judging the result, anyone witnessing such movement to such music may gasp at techniques which extend the boundaries of body capabilities – but which leave the audience empty.

Music is best understood as food for the soul. This was and remains the classical approach to the art which was dedicated to either the purpose of delighting the listeners, telling a story, honouring a greater person, state, ideal , expressing a nation’s spirit, or in spiritual dedication to religious worship and the glories of God. Music was an expression which served to enrich the listeners. At its best and most powerful, music can stir the spirits of thousands, who for a time experience the pleasure of a feeling of unity beyond the diversity in human life.

The dancer depends upon the music. Dance is music made visible!

Dance has always been a part of human culture and will no doubt remain so. In past eras, as in ancient Egypt, dancers were trained in the temples, dedicated to the gods, their art was sanctified and they were used within the powerful ritual which were used in ceremonies and outer rituals to involve the people and to amass group thought in prayer. In the ancient Indian traditions the temple dancers held also a place of respect and their music and dances were dedicated to the gods.

In ancient Greece and in fact, in all ancient civilizations, it was the same – there were the temple dances and there were the folk dances of the general populace.

In our western culture we have no such equivalent system which allows each to have its place. In fact in our Christian religion and worship there is no place and never one has been considered, for dancing.

So in our way of life, we are the poorer. We only have resort to the dancing of the masses – that which only expresses the spirit of the people – and this is always uninspired. But we have our classical music which has served to inspire many millions of people throughout the world. So in this, we have a ‘conductor’ but where are the dancers who can make their bodies instruments capable of expressing the exquisite sounds and spirit of such glorious arrangements of notes? There are thousands of dancers with skill but have they attunement to the spirit to fulfil the needs of the art?

There are many musicians trained in classical music and many dancers trained in classical dance. Surely they can support one another to act as twin arts in creating something really beautiful?

Chaos Germinates Art: Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo Qiang was born in Quanzhou, Fujian Province of China in the year 1957. Cai Guo-Qiang gained an exposure to Traditional Chinese art forms and Western literature as an effect of his father’s job, who was a traditional painter and a calligrapher, and worked in a bookstore. Cai grew up in the period, which was under social tensions of the Cultural Revolution, as a teenager, Cai himself participated in the parades and various demonstrations. His memories and experiences of the various forms of explosions, such as fireworks of celebration and cannon balls, made a deep impact on his creative streak and imagination. Creating the artworks by gunpowder explosions became his signature style. It can be said that he was, in a way trying to depict the good and the bad ways in which gunpowder can be used, through his art.

“The Spring and Fall of a Small Town” and “Real Kung Fu of Shaolin” were the two martial art movies that Cai acted in the late teens and early twenties. Cai, fascinated by the effect of Western art forms and the modernity of it, enrolled into the Shanghai Theatre Academy to study stage design from 1981 to 1985. The knowledge he acquired from this gave him an understanding of the various elements and practices of the stage as well as a sense of teamwork, spatial arrangements and the importance of interactivity.

Apart from the experimentation and use of gunpowder to create his artworks, Cai worked with stick-figure as well as abstract patterns with oil during the period of the New wave of 1985, after which Cai moved to Japan when the movement gained momentum during 1986.

Artwork

The theme and the subject of Cai Guo Quiang’s works draw from an array of various traditions, mainly the eastern tradition; symbols, narratives and things such as science, Chinese medicines, plants and animals, fengshui, shanshui paintings, portraiture and most importantly, fireworks. Cai draws the content of his art from the contemporary social issues, eastern philosophy and from the Maoist sentiments, that are depicted with the help of gunpowder drawings that portrays the tenet of Mao Zedong “destroy nothing, create nothing.”

When Cai has to work on a specific site, he often alludes to the history and the culture of that specific region or place where the work is to be presented. Cai, in the context of the history of Chinese contemporary art has a “”critically” important role, since he was among the first few artists who contributed by initiating the discussion of the Chinese art.

“Projects for Extraterrestrials”

With the advent of the 90s, Cai started the “Projects for Extraterrestrials”. Cai worked on the project using humongous trails and rows of flaring gunpowder spanning over huge surfaces and landscapes. These projects have been usually site-specific and were performed in various countries and locations across the world. As the name, “Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10” (1993) indicates, the project involved the use of 6 miles long fuse of gunpowder, which was stretched afar the western end of the Great Wall whence the Gobi Desert started. After ignition of the fuse it burned for 15 minutes, which created a pattern akin to a dragon, which is the symbol of ancient mythological and imperial heritage of China. The inspiration behind the title of the series’ roots from Cai’s belief in the creation of beauty and joy with the help of a earthly conflict, such as the “material fuel” to gain a higher perspective through the celebration of pure energy.

Gunpowder works

Cai wanted to break the monotony of the social climate, as well as the traditional artistic practices in China, which were more controlled and suppressed expressions of art, this he achieved with the help of gunpowder to generate spontaneity. During his stay in Japan from 1986 to 1995, Cai extensively experimented the properties of gunpowder in his artworks, which eventually prepped him to explore massive explosives and the inception of the “explosion events”. As a result of an artistic exchange between the United States and the Asian countries, promoted by an international organization called the Asian Cultural Council based in New York, Cai moved to New York in 1995.

Belly Dancing Is a Sensual Dancing Art

Belly dancing is a sensual form of dancing. Does the word sensual conjure negative visions in your mind? Sensual is feeling alive. We are in sensual sensations every minute of the day and night.

Sensual is using your senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. The sensations which we receive from these senses keeps us alive.

This dance requires that you hear the music, and feel the soul and vibrations of the music. The body moves to the rhythms with physical movements of discipline and the nerves respond to the emotional feelings of the music. Our active being (mental, physical, and emotional) is at one with the music.

The sensual delights which are experienced when dancing rewards us with pleasure, relaxation, and enthusiasm for living. We are spiritually enlightened, physical energized, and mentally attuned, We are ready to meet our daily responsibilities and any new challenges.

The most popular question which students ask, “Is it difficult to learn this dance?” I have always found this question to be difficult to answer as it has much to do with the desire and discipline of an individual.

A better question would be, “Will I need to dedicate time to practice?” This is not a dance activity to be done in the classroom. You can, but with passage of time you will see your classmates advancing and think yourself incapable of learning this dance. The majority of the students do take the time to practice. Many benefits will be gained from this art form with practice.

Becoming comfortable with your body as you do the movements builds up confidence of self. The results of losing weight, losing unwanted body fat, looking attractive in your clothing, and standing tall all help a person to feel better about themselves.

The difficulty lies in knowing that the female body is sensual and to mentally and psychologically become comfortable with the senses of this anatomy makes some women feel awkward. The challenge for these women is overcoming negative, off-hand verbal remarks, and negative experiences in public or privately which have been embarrassing or abusive just because they are females.

This dance is very understanding of these frailties and it helps every woman on a pathway to self-improvement and comfort with their female bodies. Belly dancing historically originated with women dancing for self or with other women for family gatherings.

Another popular question is, “Am I expected to perform?” The answer is, “No”. Thousands of women take this dance for self only and will never dance for the general public.