By Allison Bell
Dancing at the Guiding Star Grange is about participating in the link between past and present. It is revival and survival, keeping traditions alive while interweaving them with new spirit and creativity. It is about renewal and release, relaxation and rejoining in the sense of community that is sometimes intangible in the neighborhoods that we live and work in. The space, its artifacts, evoke dances of the past, echoes of a meeting place for men and women, the sheer fun of whirling around the room in someone’s arms.
In dancing, movement is the medium of communication. It is the words and sentences in a language of connection between dancers. Historically, dances developed out of highly specific geographic, social and economic influences, and reflect the features of the societies and cultures in which they are danced. The voluminous research of the late Alan Lomax on folksong and dance styles around the world demonstrates this remarkable connection between movement styles in dance and ways of moving in everyday life. Thus, dancing at the Grange also carries with it a microcosm of the nuance of social interactions: the fluttering eye, the craned neck, the stiffened back hing another at arm’s length, the held or averted gaze, laughter, pouting, joy, exhilaration, disappointment.
Recently, reminders have gone out to our community of dancers to be gentle with the dance floor, fragile and straining under the steady stream of feet pounding week after week. Periodically, reminders also need to spread amongst the members of our community about the many layers of social discourse that are occurring on the floor, about the etiquette of the dance, about the courtesy we desire toward ourselves and others, about remembering that “fun” is sometimes a subjectively-defined word. A key element of dance is the awareness of space and of being an object moving through space. Moving-as-community, in its most tribal sense, means striving for synchrony in rhythm and time. Remembering that we are not just present for ourselves, but that we are also creating a communal energy every time we dance, helps move us all forward into a physical, sometimes spiritual, certainly connected space we can feel good about sharing.