Dance and Impacts on Culture

Dance influences culture. Can you believe it ? Imagine the opposite: your culture is not impacted by dance. Or even you have a culture but you do not dance. Perhaps you hate dancing ?. The absence of dance will not alter your culture. But the practice of dance can modify the latter, whether the dance that you practice belongs to your culture or if it belongs to another culture (other people).

Upon watching certain African tribes, for example, and this is just one example, we can guess what their culture is through their dances to the point that their homes, their customs, their way of life remain very visible. As we watch them dancing, we can say that dance reflects their cultures. Certain tribes were cannibals and their dances reflect their joy at having beaten the enemy, for example. See a warrior dancing with a skull or bones hanging by his belt. At first you may say his culture is greatly influenced by struggle, fighting etc. ..

In summary, we could say that dance reflects the culture when the former is fully apparent – the African warriors dance very often outdoors. Even though they are no longer cannibals, their danse may celebrate something rather cruel that their ancestors were doing in the past or reflect a more peaceful style of life. But their cultural message is to be found in the way they dance.

Conversely, when the dance is not apparent (eg, in our western civilization, dances are performed mainly cubs in night-clubs) dance becomes hidden (unless you attend yourself these clubs) and your culture becomes obscure.

Nevertheless, the fact that you belong to my world, and even though I do not know your religion or what you love eating, reading etc. it makes me believe we belong to the same culture, let us say the western culture.

At this stage, I exclude all aspects of your outdoor clothing revealing de facto your religion (Jewish, Muslim, for example) that confirms we do not have the same culture.

At this stage I am trying to verify whether dance influences my culture, not having a real knowledge of what other cultures are. To find out, we must ask ourselves if our culture can be changed through dances we have never practiced. When I dance other western dances (to follow my western model), for example the waltz, I remain within my model of french origin but if I practice the tango, I am already in the Argentine model. The paso-doble takes me to Spain and if I want to try the Flamenco, I would still be in Spain. I tried dancing the brazilian Samba by attending a dance group one day and it lasted for months. The result was quite surprising because I felt that my culture was changing, I began to take that dance in my skin indeed and started to reject my classical french model as I was finding it a real routine bringing me to nowhere. Were I seeking actually an other culture ? Perhaps.

This means that when dancing remains part of your culture it will have no influence over the latter. When that dance i new ot you and originates from an other culture you may be influenced by the latter. You may also reject it.

However when I tackled the brazilian way of dancing (like Samba), it became a real discovery and a totally new challenge to offset my culture since I had to apply my mind and my body into new forms that were not mine, hence crunching a bit of their culture.

Today I have the clear conviction that if you practice new dances (I mentioned my personal case for Brazil, but you might want to perform an African dance for example), your culture will change slightly even though you will not notice the effect. You might become more open to others..

The same goes for those who practice classical dance. When we practice diligently, your culture is steeped in dancing and your perceptions are changing. You have danced your western dances for long and then one day, there is sparkle and here you go dancing a new step, a new dance. The moment yu do it you enter actually an other culture without knowing it.

Dances thus affect our culture. I think we know little about its actual impact on the individual: but it certainly helps us to have a better knowledge of foreigners and their cultures, understand them better and accept them. On the opposite, as you are taking up their own way of dancing, they will better understand you too.