Saturday, November 17, 2007

Kill the Spirit of Gravity: Nietzsche on Dance

The 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche clearly appreciated dance, and in his imagining of the “the glowing life of the Dionysian revellers” he seems to be not only looking back to Ancient Greece but anticipating future raves. I would be interested in finding out more about his own experiences of dancing, as opposed to writing about it, so if anybody has any knowledge of this, let me know.

“Under the charm of the Dionysian not only is the union between man and man reaffirmed, but Nature which has become estranged, hostile, or subjugated, celebrates once more her reconciliation with her prodigal son, man.... Now the slave is free; now all the stubborn, hostile barriers, which necessity, caprice or ‘shameless fashion’ have erected between man and man, are broken down... Each one feels himself not only united, reconciled, blended with his neighbour, but all as one with him... In song and in dance man expresses himself as a member of a higher community; he has forgotten how to walk and speak; he is about to take a dancing flight into the air... He feels himself a god, he himself now walks about enchanted, in ecstasy... He is no loner an artist, he has become a work of art: in these paroxysms of intoxication the artistic power of all nature reveals itself to the highest gratification of the Primordial Unity” (The Birth of Tragedy, 1872)

"I should believe only in a God who understood how to dance. And when I beheld my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: it was the Spirit of Gravity - through him all things are ruined. One does not kill by anger but by laughter. Come let us kill the Spirit of Gravity!" (Of reading and writing, Thus spake Zarathustra, 1883)

"Do not cease your dance, sweet girls! No spoil sport has come to you with an evil eye, no enemy of girls... How could I be enemy of divine dancing, you nimble creatures... A dance-song and a mocking-song on the Spirit of Gravity, my supreme, most powerful devil" (The Dance Song, Thus spake Zarathustra, 1883)

"And once I wanted to dance as I had never yet danced: I wanted to dance beyond all heavens. Then you lured away my favourite singer. And then he struck up a gruesome, gloomy melody: alas, he trumpeted into my ears like a mournful horn! Murderous singer, instrument of malice, most innocent man! I stood prepared for the finest dance: then you murdered by ecstasy with your tones! I know how to speak the parable of the highest things in the dance - and now my greatest parable has remained in my limbs unspoken!" (The Funeral Song, Thus spake Zarathustra, 1883).
Photos via Flickr from Tel Aviv, Israel - top by Orenziv of a rave, October 2007; bottom from Love Parade 2004 by Ehud

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