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The craftsman
Volume XXXI, Number 3 (December 1916)

Dancing and democracy,   pp. 224-233 PDF (2.5 MB)


Page 224


DANCING AND DEMOCRACY: ILLUSTRATED
FROM DRAWINGS BY ESTHER PECK
old Latin folk, and the Greeks from whom they
ght inspiration, or at least took it, frankly avowed
need and delight of a sound mind in a sound body.
w England was content to ignore the body, to cen-
all her emotions in religion, and it was New Eng-
d which established that terrible boundary which
              still exists in America between the spirit and the body.
The bouy which held the spirit, and should express it, and in fact
should be a signal for the beauty of the spirit, was ignored, and mal-
treated, and humiliated.
   It was a strange obsession that these good forefathers of ours
possessed. They seemed to have a certain sort of courage, or perhaps
they were only self-willed. They came to America so they could do
as they pleased, and burn those who did not, and they left England
by way of Holland because there they had to do as others pleased, or
be burned themselves. So, perhaps, it was egotism that brought them
over after all. In any case, a more arrogant, self-willed people never
existed. They were determined to have a religious debauch, and in-
stead of loving beauty, they had the excitement of condemning it, they
had the haunting interest of hiding it.
   Those sweet feminine Puritan ancestors, with their pretty hair
under caps, their pretty figures enveloped in long, loose skirts, their
pretty hands tucked away under cuffs, were taught that goodness
was negative and beauty evil, that human delight was to be burned
at the stake-they themselves did not suffer so much at the time be-
cause they were pretty and life was new and strange, and there was
always the emotional excitement of the stake on the hillside lighted
up expectedly by the thinker, the artist, the woman too human for
her days.
   It is the generations following these gray and black Puritan times
that have suffered, a whole nation afraid of its body, a whole nation
afraid of its spirit, emotionally without gestures, without facial ex-
pression, with emotions hidden under the old fear of the gallows.
Puritanism enjoyed itself by having its own way for a few genera-
tions, in its arbitrary delight in the condemnation of every human
foible except the destruction of humanity. But the children of the
Puritans, "born in sin," and their children, and the generations
which
followed have been the people to suffer.
   I can remember when I was a little girl not being allowed to lift
my hands when I talked. It was not well-bred to express anything
by a gesture. In fact, the whole nation, to within the last few years,
has not dared lift its voice or hands; not dared express joy or delight,
224


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