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WHY WE DANCE: A PHILOSOPHY OF BODILY BECOMING. By Kimerer L. LaMothe. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 304 p.

Why We Dance introduces dance as a vital art and a philosophy of bodily becoming. It portrays that dance matters at the most fundamental understanding of existence and that movement is the building block of life. The philosophy of bodily becoming has been strengthened in this book by author's personal experiences as a dancer, trainer, farmer and mother. She understands what becoming of the body means as she has danced every aspect of her life. According to her, movement exists in us always and is permanent but is incarcerated by isolation, technology and distraction. This book showcases a significant work on the question why we dance by bringing in the biological, ethical, spiritual and ecological necessity of dance.

In our daily life, we perform so many activities like walking, running, dancing, harvesting, moving in ways that align our bodily becoming with the movements of the natural world. In a world, where movement matters, the course for understanding dance as a vital art must be done indirectly, by reconsidering our basic assumptions of who we humans are, re-educating ourselves by critically examining the dominance of materialistic paradigm in Western culture and by recreating the dancer hidden within us. It can only be made possible if we begin from the crust, try to bring to light the resistance to acknowledging dance as a vital art in places where we do not even notice that it exists.

Being a dancer myself, a question always ponders me: Why dance? It seems dance will give me no end results, no future. I can rather utilize my time in something which is more productive, has a promising future and will give me happiness. We most often dance just for fun and entertainment but lack a speculative approach to appreciate when others dance as we don't have any understanding of conceptual resources. But this book has enlightened me with a realization and vision that dance exists everywhere, sometimes we know it and sometimes we don't, but it is there. It is an activity that animates every dimension of our bodily self. It is a vital art for our artistic, intellectual, religious endeavor. It is vital for uplifting our emotional, ethical and spiritual selves. It is vital for our humanity. This book comprises of a dance- enabled, dance- friendly philosophy of bodily becoming which is vital for every human being.

Dance is a movement and every dance has a pattern. As we dance, we not only create movement patterns but we become the patterns we create. Dance teaches us discipline, regularity it sharpen our minds as it involves sensing and responding. This creation of patterns of sensation and response is what LaMothe refers to as "a rhythm of bodily becoming." Dance is an active participation of our senses and cultivation of sensory awareness. The movements we make in a given moment make us who we are. For instance, while portraying a role in a dance, we tend to lose our identity and give full justice to that role. In our daily life also, we play a number of roles, a student, a mother, a wife, etc. doing complete justice to each of these roles. We tend to dance every moment in our life. These movements make us who we are. LaMothe in her book tries to convey the shift of experience which happens to her when she dances. Dancing moulds us into a different person with varied forms of experiences, knowledge, reality, practicality and ultimate truth. But the biggest hurdle we often face is the priority given to matter as real. In this sense, we measure movement as a way to arrest the matter we assume in making it. This ultimately creates a problem in appreciating dance as a vital art. But every movement we make is different from the previous one and every movement matters (22).

Since this book lays an important emphasis on "movement", the author gives various definitions of the term, although the term dance never needs a definition, it is self- explanatory. It is important to note that what we do and who we are is nothing but a movement, Movement is a transformation, making us outreach our previous self, transforming us into a new and better person. Dance is not just a movement of hands, legs or body but it also stirs our thoughts, ideas, imagination, perception and creativity which are dance-enabled and makes us feel what we are feeling. It is the best way to reach our creativity as it refreshes our mind, induces new feelings, skills and habits.

Scientifically, theories of evolution presume that matter is real and that matter is what evolves. Although, these ideas that matter is real or matter evolves creates hurdles for believing in dance as a vital art. Dancing provides a node of natural selection as it serves as an evolutionary advantage. Dance is not just an activity that human beings evolved to do but it is a bodily capacity whose potential for creating life the human species exists to maximize (45).

Dance makes us feel related to something greater than ourselves. It makes us strong, free, connected, creative, and beautiful. This subjective knowledge has been compared with the factual meaning of the term knowledge wherein knowledge is something which is written down and a person who is able to read and write are the only ones capable of acquiring knowledge. Thus, dancing is considered as opposite of what counts as knowledge. It is only seen in terms of entertainment, fun, stress- relief. Thus, a person who is a practitioner of dance and wants to write about his or her experience of dance, find themselves in an utmost dilemma. If they write about it, they undermine its practice and if they defend dance as non verbal then dancing is not considered as true knowledge. But the value of dance cannot be only measured by how much scholars have written about it in order to make it knowledgeable, rather it should be valued for its combination of technical, embodied, experiential, symbolic, spiritual knowledge. Dancers not only acquire knowledge about the various steps and techniques but they discover knowledge themselves while practicing it. Indeed, reading and writing themselves are best evaluated as dance.

Dancing is also a means by which a thinking mind proceeds to attain a rational end. Dancing appears as a biological necessity of human living. Dance is a process of becoming itself. It is not only performing on stage or mastering the techniques but it is reliving and rediscovering ourselves in order to move in this progressive world. The author teaches by sharing a personal experience of her becoming mother the fifth time, that dance connects us. Our movement expresses an impulse to connect whatever other movements have enabled. We dance every moment from within or physically, not realizing that it is dance which pushes us like a gigantic force to enable movement and connect with other humans ethically. We must expand our horizons by the act of dancing as an ethical necessity. Dance is a way of life, to build strong relationships, social commitments and becoming bound to one another by sharing their own personal experiences of pleasure. There's no way of becoming human without dance.

We humans are always surrounded by the dichotomy of pain and pleasure. This pain can be emotional, physical, spiritual or mental. In any case, it breaks us down. But the author perceives dance as a form of heal to this pain, which is also a movement. In words of LaMothe, "A dance-enabled sensory awareness is a place where we can embrace our pain as a catalyst to our fundamental sensory creativity. It is a place where we can begin to learn from pain how to invest our conscious selves in the ongoing healing work of the universe as it is happening in us" (149).

Dancing also acquires its role as a spiritual necessity While dancing, we move ourselves or with the group, we sense and respond. This interaction is love which is an appearance of god. If we love dancing, we love ourselves, we love the people that surround us, and we love each and every moment of our life. And to acknowledge dance as a vital art, we must first evaluate the distinction between nature and culture. It is essential to take into consideration the idea that culture is the movement of nature seeking its own becoming in human form.

The book covers its topics well and breaks new grounds by helping people to think about dancing beyond its performing aspect, by the way it is present everywhere, in everything we do, in our day-to-day movements, in our relationship with others. It has intended the readers to rethink the concept of dance as a vital art, opposing to the rigid misconceptions as laid down by the materialist paradigm. Dance is a way of life. It is important for the dancers to realize how important it is to create and generate values and ideas which will enrich our intellectual as well artistic sectors of society. Dance not only appears as a way in which a material body can move or as a form of social cohesion or as nonverbal knowledge. Dancing not only appears necessary for building biological selves, but also necessary for building ethical selves. It gives us the knowledge we need to connect ourselves with other humans in mutually life-enabling ways. Every human is born of a dance and born into a dance. Dance is one which heals us from all our pains. Bodily movements make and reinforce the distinction between culture and nature and showcases dance as a vital art and ecological necessity. Thus, dance is a vital art.


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Author:Ghosh, Pragya
Publication:Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2019

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