As a little girl, my parents enrolled me in dance classes: ballet, hip-hop, tap, and jazz. I was never the best at dancing, often placed in the middle or the back of routines for performances. Even though dancing might have not been my strongest talent, I always loved how dance was a shared experience. Dancing as a child taught me the beauty of teamwork. People coming together to create something new was beautiful, and it didn’t matter where I was personally standing for the routine. Every person was necessary to the dance routine succeeding, whether they were in the front, back, or center. The routine only came together when all the dancers performed with energy and excitement, no matter their physical place on stage.
In high school, after I had stopped the dance classes, I decided with a friend that it would be fun to try out for Scottish dancing. As we learned how to dance to bagpipes and drums, I found myself learning more about Scottish culture, and how dance acts as a universal connector. I continued to learn this in college.
At my university, we have an annual competition between all of the dance teams. Each dance team performs a routine that is focused on a theme that they choose. The show almost always completely sells out, our hockey arena packed with students and families all coming to cheer on the dance teams. During my freshman year, as I sat in my seat, I could not help but simply share my awe at the dance routines on stage. Every dance group had worked hard on their routine, and looked excited and proud as they performed. I had a very clear moment of recognition at how dancing is a universal language. Even though it manifests itself differently in different cultures, dancing is universal.
In WYA’s Certified Training Program, Josef Pieper writes that “to be active oneself in artistic creation, producing shapes and forms for the eye to see” is a way to practice an uncorrupted relationship to reality. Pieper’s words exactly matched my thoughts and feelings as I watched Showdown. I immediately decided to audition for the Bollywood fusion dance team, which later became both my team and a second family. I continued to discover through dancing on this team the joy of being able to learn about another culture through dance.
Even outside of formal dancing, I experience the joy of sharing culture through dance. We had a bonding night here at WYA which ended in a spontaneous dance party. Every intern would pick a ‘traditional’ song from their country, and teach the others a dance that went along with the music. Dancing is more than moving to a beat; it is an act of intercultural bonding, learning, and simply an expression of joy.
Written by Gabrielle Silberman, a North America intern from Florida