Dance is a beautiful word. When I say or hear it, images that are beyond words in their harmony and pattern pass through my mind. I suppose some people might imagine TV show performers in glitz and glamour. Or raunchy nightclubbers bopping. Or paper-thin girls in tutus. But none of those images conveys what I feel when I say the word dance. The word rolling off my tongue – the vowel sound softened, the “n” held a millisecond longer than usual, the “c” punctuating the sounds with a broad hiss – this word conjures for me pure energy, a kind of concord, a golden mean, an agreement of opposites. It seems mythical. The dance of life. The dance of opposites.
When I walk into an open space, especially if the floor is wooden, this mythical feeling of the possibility of beauty comes. Not the beauty of a trained dancer whose technique is perfect form. I’m talking about the beauty of something authentic expressed in the moment of its coming into being, before reflection. It is more accessible and simple than what is expressed in spiffy dance technique.
There’s a line in the movie American Beauty that reminds me of this. The young man whose hobby is taking video shows his young girlfriend his favorite footage – of a plastic bag swept up by wind in a dance with blown leaves: “The bag was just dancing with me, like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes!” He says it’s his favorite footage because it makes him realize that there is “this entire life behind things,” an “incredibly benevolent force” that wants him to know that there is “no reason to be afraid, ever.” He shoots video because he needs to remember this. “Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like can’t take it and my heart is just going to cave in.”
When I see something that is authentically true in the moment, it carries this beauty, whether it feels angst-full or joyful. Like the Keats line, “Beauty is truth, and truth beauty. That is all there is to know, and all you need to know.” That is the dance of the beautiful word.