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The craftsman
Volume XXXI, Number 3 (December 1916)

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


Page 230


DANCING AND DEMOCRACY
way the body has of expressing itself beautifully, once more returning
to the human race. We see people whose faces are less immobile,
we see people on and off the stage with shining eyes and brilliant
smiles and tender, beautiful mouths; we find a new respect in the
world for emotion since we have begun to regard the expression of it
as an art.
   As a matter of fact the great fluent, plastic art of the world is danc-
ing. It is the most democratic of all arts, it is the simplest, it is the
most intimate. It is unquestionably, as we look past stupidity and
convention, the greatest art of the people, and every human being
is entitled not only to a beautiful body, but the impulse to move
gracefully, and the power to use the impulse. We should walk for
the delight of all who behold us; we should speak with music in our
voices; we should make our gestures rich with the beauty and freedom
of our spirits.
   All of this we are learning to do through dancing, and the delight
of motion must inevitably inspire our writers, our poets and our artists,
and our art in turn must inspire the world to a greater appreciation
of their capacity for beauty.
   HE CRAFTSMAN is presenting in this article some sketches
   by Esther Peck which we feel exactly illustrate the point made,
       that the body cannot be free and beautiful unless the soul is
developed and fluent, and that an appreciation of life and love and
beauty must react on the body. Fortunately for us, Miss Peck has
shown us two quite different types of dancers. In some of her sketches
we see children from Isadora Duncan's School, and we realize that a
school for dancing is a school for beauty, a school for the development
of the mind and the spirit as well as the body. The other sketches
Miss Peck has made in the lower East Side of New York, where
there is a settlement of Russian Jewish people, imaginative, sym-
pathetic, and eager for beauty. Through the work of Miss Alice and
Irene Lewisohn this part of New York has been made an art center;
they have awakened a community spirit, they have built a theater,
and best of all, they have let the young people of the community act
in the theater, decorate the theater, plan clothes and dances. And
Miss Peck's sketches give one a very real and brilliant idea of how
universal is this dormant love of beauty, once given a medium.
    It is an immensely vital thing that children should be allowed to
grow up as beautiful as Nature meant them to be, that their spirits
should be cultivated and joyous with a free delight in all beauty, that
they should forget the Puritan prejudice against gesture and remem-
ber that the great forgotten art is pantomime, an art in which the
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