If we look at specific communities in world history, dance seems to have played a central role in community building. From the social balls of Victorian England to the celebration of Carnivale in Brazil to the fierce displays of Maori warriors in New Zealand, dance in its many forms united people. We felt a common bond through a shared musical experience that led us to groove together. We laughed, we mourned, we celebrated as one with dance. And we grew as a community.
Some might say that we are increasingly more isolated in today's technologically fast-paced global culture. Social networking, the Internet, and individualized lifestyles can lead us to pursue our own paths, often separate from a community. We can be independent, self-sufficient souls living among other independent, self-sufficient spirits. Even in a sprawling city like Los Angeles, it's entirely possible to live on your own, go to work, and never have any true human contact with another person for long periods of time. You travel alone, eat alone, and watch TV alone.
Somewhere along the way, we lost our sense of community. Spending time together has been redefined in context, whether it's IMing each other while we're on the go or checking up on our friends passively via Facebook status updates. What can we do to remedy this? Can the human race really sustain itself if we split off onto our individual paths, forsaking the value of community?
Now, it should be clarified that not all of us have chosen this path. There are plenty of community-builders and participants out there. But we can't deny that there are some of us who are isolated from community. If you'd like to change that, let's not see your current situation as an unchangeable fact. There is a community out there for you and there are people who want to know you and be known by you.
So, where does dance come into the equation? More and more, the value of dance as a performance art form should be elevated along with its value as a community-building force. Whether it's a cultural performance or a social gathering or a celebration of a friend's birthday, dance needs to be valued. We have to create a world where our children value it and embrace it for all that it can add to our lives. Dance education is powerful because it can introduce a child to creative self-expression, the value of training and discipline, a path for self-discovery, and a place in artistic history that helps to inform personal identity. Sometimes, we can discount the value of the arts when we don't foresee a professional career for our children in that field. But that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be a part of their lives.
We've all heard the call to support the arts. Why not also keep our eyes on community? Especially for teenagers and young adults, dance community is a second home for them. It has given them refuge and a place to be free from their troubles. It will be important for older mentors to guide these young souls when they're looking for direction. From there, relationships form, and from relationships we lay the foundation for community.
In the end, dance gives us a reason to celebrate. And we often want to share our joy with others. That's all the more reason to bring dance back into our lives and to make a true difference in another person's world.