Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dancing in the Service of Thought

Soren Kierkegaard has a great line about ‘dancing in the service of thought’. I don’t think he was really talking about dancing, but it got me thinking about dancing and thinking. Reading lots of books about dance, it has struck me how little consideration is given to what is going on in people’s heads when they are dancing. I guess there’s this Cartesian notion that dancing is something done with the body, whereas thought, the work of the mind, is best suited to quiet contemplation. Hostile critics see dancing as mindless, while others enthuse only over the body in motion.

Sometimes it's possible to be lost in music, but in my experience there’s often a lot of thinking going on, particularly if the physical body gets into a semi-automatic groove and there are no distractons like conversation (well usually the music's too loud). Sometimes there are flashes of insight, sometimes a stream of consciousness - ‘I love this tune – I recognise this sample – I remember dancing to this in Ibiza – I loved that crème brulee we used to have in the café in the old town when we couldn’t be bothered to go clubbing – they’re cute – have I get enough money for another round – I must remember this so I can write about it in my blog - I wish life could be like this all the time – I hate my job – what time’s the last bus - I love this tune’. Awareness of the present slipping betweent the past (memory) and the future (desire). Indeed the tension between actuality (concrete, immediate sensation) and potentiality (abstraction, 'what is not' actually present) that constitutes consciousness for Kierkegaard.

What do you think about when you're dancing? Have you ever written a song, solved a problem or made some kind of breakthrough of thought? If you can't remember perhaps you should try to notice next time, though obviously the act of being conscious of consciousness might partially invalidate the thought experiment!

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