Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why "Play" is Crucial for our Dance

"Play" is a compelling idea. We remember it from our childhood whether we played with toys or played games with others. So how does it relate to dance, especially freestyle street dance like popping, locking, and bboying?

First, what is play? Stuart Brown from the National Institute of Play has done research-based analysis on how play stimulates areas of the human brain, and allows us to express greater freedom in creativity and social communication. Essentially, we're healthier when we have regular periods of play. It could be a hobby, a passion, or a consuming desire to experience new ideas with curiosity for the possible.

Without play, there's something missing at the heart of our self-expression. Play allows us to be ready to experience the wonder that comes from discovering new insights, sensations, and ideas when we are pursuing our passion. Play opens our minds and our hearts to sharing joy with each other. It connects us and inspires us to embrace our peers. We can be child-like, not childish, in our play, recalling a sense of innocence, a lack of self-consciousness, and a willingness to live in the moment.

All of those qualities are crucial to freestyling. Popping, locking, and bboying in a freestyle cypher context calls us to be present in the moment and to illustrate the music with our bodies and minds. Self-consciousness and the tendency to think too hard about what moves to do can kill a sense of playfulness in our dance. Yes, we can apply thoughtful critique and analysis to dance movements and culture. But there is a simple joy that's missing when play is absent.

So the question is, how have you played today?

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