Recently some friends and I played our ukuleles and sang Hawaiian tunes at an ice cream social. We had a wonderful time leading the sing-a-longs, but the party really got rollicking when we invited folks to bust out their hula moves to the Hukilau Song, swaying like palms trees, casting and reeling in the fishing nets and gathering up their ama'ama.
Dancing is liberating and contagious, and no matter our physical abilities, each of us contains the seeds for expressing ourselves this way through dance. Dance is accessible to us any time, day or night, inside or out, alone or with others. By integrating our breathing and movements with music and rhythm, we are lifted to a higher plane, making it possible to rediscover the wholeness of life.
Historically, dance has been used as a language of celebration, thanksgiving and healing - performed to invoke the gods, to illustrate tribal legends and to represent cosmic processes. Though most dances are performed on foot, some dances of Asia and the Pacific Islands use only the hands, arms and upper body while seated. In contrast, classical Indian dances incorporate every part of the body in an elaborate swirl, each movement of the arms and hands (mudras) representing a mood, action, object or living creature.
Eliza Cushman Miller, dancer and author, observes: "Dance also expresses a spirit of exploration and play. In many ways what I do in the dance studio recalls what children do on playgrounds and in parks everywhere. I run and jump and urge others to do so... I invent things, pretend things, imagine things. In its purest form, dance is a gesture of love.”
Image: Prepare to Dance, photograph by Ann Richardson