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

Jacobs, Ellen W.
The dancer: [why everybody suddenly loves dance],   pp. 266-[271] PDF (6.2 MB)


Page 267


why everybody suddenl loves dance
political hero, lending him an aura rarely
enjoyed by serious American artists. He
became an instant name not only by virtue of
the drama of his dancing but also by virtue
of the drama of his life.
In addition, there was his on-stage love affair
with Margot Fonteyn, the legend-making rap-
port between an older woman and a young
tiger. His partnership was supposed to have
inspired her to new life, to even greater
artistic heights. The couple aroused our
curiosity, fed our imaginations and helped fill
our famous need for glamorous stars.
Nureyev, yes. But it is also important to con-
sider when the phenomenon of Nureyev came
about. For the answer to the question of why
America is suddenly interested in dance is
inextricably linked to when America became
interested. Nureyev's arrival in the sixties
coincided with changes in the whole social
and moral climate of America, changes that
made an acceptance of dance possible for the
first time in our country's history.
The war in Vietnam, America's economic
affluence, the fear of nuclear annihilation, and
the growing threat of a computerized and
faceless society each played its own role in
forcing us to seriously question principles
which we had always considered givens.
Political, economic and moral assumptions
underwent severe scrutiny.
It was during this period that America finally
began to loosen her chastity belt. What used
to go on behind closed doors guiltily was now
going public proudly. America was shedding
the skins of her puritanical past, a past that
had religiously taught its children to divide
themselves into three separate parts: mind,
body and spirit. Flesh was naturally evil and
a source of shame. A concern with and dis-
play of the body had traditionally met with
severe criticism or, at best, with nervous
snickers.
It seems reasonable then, if not almost too
obvious, that an art form dependent on the
body for expression, an art whose message is
articulated by the body would threaten the
very moral fiber of the nation's conscience.
No matter how pristine the ballet, how virginal
the ballerina or gallant the danseur, dance
is about the body, the body as it moves in
space and time, but nonetheless, the body.
Our eyes are focused on the legs, arms,
torso, neck and back as the dancer dips,
turns, runs, leaps. No matter how sexually
innocent the movement, it still stirs a sensual
response in its audience.
Dance certainly is not always about sex or
even love, but it is always sensual, and appre-
ciation of it requires an unrepressed spirit,
an ability to transcend our trained prejudice
against the animal responses of our muscles.
It is only through kinesthetic empathy-a
267


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