He danced great as a baby, but now says he can't dance.
Homo sapiens are hardwired as the dancing animal.
How is it that many of my friends, family, and colleagues say, "I cannot dance," or "I have two left feet"? Even if you have some friends who can dance, how is it that there's a good chance that they bemoan that their life-partner cannot dance? How is it that the dancing animal believes that it is not hardwired into the human psyche? Growing up as a white, heterosexual male in a country that sees dance as unimportant, I have a few theories and anecdotes to tell. But not today. I would like to focus on why homo sapiens dance when they hear music even if they had never seen anyone dance. It's fascinating! And dance is not a random trait. It's all about survival from psychological trauma.
Survival of the Fittest [Dancers]
Dance has long been associated in human history to survival. Dance is continuously and ubiquitously supporting psychological wellbeing:
- Dances of birth, new beginnings
- Dances for courting a mate
- Wedding dances
- Dances of celebration, like coming of age
- War dances
- Dances telling the story after war and other human tragedies
- Dance for rain during droughts; dances of celebration after it rains
- Dances to express each and every human emotion.
These dances often have their focus on the survival of the person, or perhaps the group, even the race. Nerdy scientists (who often don't dance or see dance as superficial or even primitive) don't seem to even wonder why humans dance. Certainly, evolutionists seem particularly inept at seeing this link, even when it is under their noses: If dance is hardwired into our brains, then survival is behind it. Those who dance (along with musicians) know the answer in their gut: We dance to survive. In a world experiencing an international epidemics of suicide, this should be clear: Wellbeing = survival.
After years of being a musician, then a dancer and now a trauma therapist, it seems pretty clear to me. As we have evolved, music and dance help us survive terrible things like slavery, sexual assault, and war. No wonder that the great dances of the Americas were started by slaves! Have troubles in your life? Then the music and dance will come to you in the form of the blues, or melancholy country or tango. And of course, music and dance are there to celebrate life too, which, in turn, also helps us survive. Dance meets us as infants and follows us through life.
I am not sure about you, but I need to deal with the many psychologically difficult events in my life through music and dance. Movement--like walking and running or biking or swimming is great--I know, my "therapy" was once completing an Ironman Triathlon while I was living in a little a town without dance. But what movement has the most psychological benefits over all other movements? Dance. Please don't repeat the shoe company ad, "Just Do It!" No.
Just dance. Survive.