I have two daughters who grew up in dance, so have wondered up close whether dance comes from training or from instinct. I suspect it’s a bit of both. My kids can dance but they did not get it from me. I’m the original geek that people avoid on the dance floor at a wedding for fear of losing an eye. So there is the desire to dance, and then there’s the fact of whether you can. For all those like myself, I think we prove that even if you are a Frankenstein on the dance floor, the spirit can still move you.
The thing is, you don’t really have to push kids to move their bodies, even before the age where you can teach technique. It seems we have an instinct to dance. If you doubt it, search “Baby dancing’” on YouTube and see what you get. A zillion clips of very little kids feeling the rhythm enough to wiggle their bodies. How? Turn on the music and you will find out. My wife (who tends toward such things) showed me one the other morning of a kid about three years old doing the rhumba. The toddler could put me to shame on the dance floor.
Remember the Ooga Chucka Dance Baby? This is a neat little animation that hit a nerve world-over. It was developed by Michael Girard and Robert Lurye in 1996 as a sample source file for the 3D animation software package Character Studio (used in conjunction with 3D Studio Max). Dancing Baby got loose, and for a while everybody got amused with Dancing Baby as a screen saver. The baby makes us laugh. We all feel that baby.
If life on earth gives us clues to the ways of God, there is quite a trail of crumbs leading to joy, and play, and fun. The instinct is everywhere in nature. For example, I watched a dog at the beach this summer. The whole world was crushing under the weight of COVID restrictions… but nobody told the dog who (thank God) did not care. The dog wanted to play.
It’s the age old game that all dogs know called “fetch”. The dog owner just kept throwing a stick out into the water, and the dog just kept on going out to fetch the stick, arriving back at shore dripping wet and happy as hell to have retrieved the stick. Why this works, we’ll never know, except to note that dogs are geared to play and you could bet solid money that if there were cavemen they were playing the same game with cave dogs. As a former paper boy, I tend to take a wide berth around dogs. They can still smell “paper boy” on me, I think. But even I enjoyed watching the dog.
Play is an exercise in imitation. It’s innate and it’s also the most instinctive form of sharing. It’s infective because when you see someone else having fun, you also start having fun vicariously. It’s also the reason people should have kids. Kids re-teach you the value of play as you see the world unfold anew in their eyes. Babies are born to play. Try playing “peekaboo” with any baby and you will have an instant friend and you will find out the meaning of laughter because the baby will laugh and you will too.
We can get the marrow sucked out of our bones with all the stuff we have to think about in adult life. Taking the cue from babies and dogs, we have to learn to park those exhausting thoughts on occasion to have a bit of fun. Each person’s definition of fun will not be the same. Some need a crowd and a bar band to spark things up. Others need simply a sunset and a walk. Whatever moves you amounts to the same thing, a time to detach from what drains you, to tap into what feeds your soul.
Is that where the phrase “dance like no one is watching” came from? I wonder how many people actually do it JUST FOR FUN. Honestly, there may be no other justifiable reason. I wonder how many crank up the music and make funny faces in the mirror just because.
You no doubt have in your friend group one friend whose role is to lighten the mood and make everybody laugh. Did you ever think that person was a prophet of God? They are giving you a divine nudge to loose some of that free melatonin in your system that comes from doing all things fun.
The fact is, like the little kid, we are made to dance. Thought I could not prove it, I am sure it’s in our DNA.