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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: growth of dance in America
(Summer-Fall, 1976)

Carter, Curtis L.
Dance literacy: [intelligence and sensibility in the dance],   pp. 210-[221] PDF (10.6 MB)


Page 210


by Curtis L. Carter
A Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of
the University Committee on the Fine Arts at
Marquette University, he is deeply involved
in the dance field as a writer and critic. Cur-
rently he is a member of the National Execu-
tive Committee of the American Dance Guild,
and serves as Chairman of the Wisconsin
Dance Council.
I.
At present a conceptual plague besets at all
levels the understanding of dance as an art
form. It is grounded in a misguided separa-
tion of sensibility from intelligence. Sensibility
includes physical motor impulses and action
and the feelings these are intended to
express; intelligence refers to notions of
formal structure, analysis, interpretation of
meaning, and reasoning that lead to theoreti-
cal studies of dance. According to those
dancers, writers, and educators who separate
sensibility from intelligence, dance is an art
of sensibility. The choreographing of dances,
their performance, and their perception by
viewers consist, accordingly, of physical-
emotive processes in which the intellectual
factors that generate aesthetics, philosophy,
and theory can be neglected without signifi-
cant loss. This one-sided approach surrounds
dance with an unfortunate aura of anti-
210
intellectualism, and dance suffers correspond-
ingly as those genuinely interested in the
arts are led to regard dance as inferior in
kind and in significance to art forms whose
intellectual components are not so neglected.
Dance is thus regarded as unworthy to be
given space in the cultural pantheon occupied
by such universally recognized art forms as
poetry, music, and painting.
The image problem for dance is not new.
Crato, a character in the Greek satirist
Lucian's dialogue on dance, mouths the
skeptical view:
Who that is a man at all, a lifelong friend
of letters, moreover conversant with philos-
ophy, abandons his interest, Lycinus, in all
that is better . . . to sit enthralled by the
flute, watching a girlish fellow play the
wanton with dainty clothing and bawdy
songs and imitate love-sick minxes, the
most erotic of all antiquity . .. a ridiculous
business in all truth . .
For more complex philosophical reasons
Hegel, writing in the nineteenth century,
excludes dance by name from the list of
"essential" arts (architecture, sculpture,
painting, music, and poetry);-he relegates it,
in fact, to the category of imperfect arts, along
with such other genteel forms of human leis-


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