Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Humans and dancers

Human, the new single by The Killers, confirms their place as the new U2 of epic pop complete with grandiose themes of faith and mortality. I was struck by the chorus where singer Brandon Flowers seems to repeat 'Are we human or are we dancer?'.

Not sure what he means here - obviously I think it is a false dichotomy, dancing is part of what makes us human, moving to music as social beings.

Does Flowers mean that the state of being a dancer is less than fully human? There is a dubious notion of humanity, or rather masculinity, as being tied up with individual self-possession and separateness from which perspective dancers who 'lose' themselves are surrendering to music like puppets at the expense of their subjectivity.

On the other hand, perhaps Flowers means that the state of being a dancer is more than human, a step beyond to a higher state of grace. Knowing that Flowers is a Mormon I wonder if there are clues in the theology of the Church of the Latter Day Saints? Actually unlike some sects, Mormons seem to have historically been pro-dancing - indeed one article refers to them as the Dancingest Denomination, pointing out that founder Joseph Smith wrote approvingly that 'Dancing has a tendency to invigorate the spirit and promote health'. A more detailed consideration of Mormonism and music shows that the attitudes of some early Mormons was more ambivalent, but dancing has always been popular among many believers.

Anyway, perhaps none of this is relevant and The Killers were just looking for a line to rhyme with 'on my knees, looking for the answer'.


JLB said...

I assumed he meant that to be "dancer" was to be more than human. in this context, here to be human is to necessarily observe the strictures of this mortal coil (so to speak)- gravity, physics, mortality, parking tickets- to be dancer is to simply obviate through benign disregard these constraints and limitations, to be self-realized, if only for the time on the dance floor. Or maybe they needed a rhyme...

Transpontine said...

You may be right, I don't think I gave enough attention to the fact that he appears to sing 'are we dancer' rather than 'are we dancers'. I think 'dancer' is sometimes used in this way as an adjective (e.g. 'she was quite dancer') to mean someone or something that is presumably dancer-like (fit, agile, graceful). Anyone familiar with this use of the word? I've got a notion that it an Irish expression.