The cost of self-expression
At a time when we are celebrating our independence as Americans I pause to reflect upon that word: independence. As always, when I reflect upon something, it is inevitable for my brain to wonder over into the realm of dance. I recently watched a video of a Palestinian girl dancing, impromptu, to an Italian street musician's music. In her dance she was not "Palestinian," she was not of any religion, or politics, she was simply human - beautifully human, expressing her beautiful human-ness. The conflict of her home and her people was not there. She was above it all. Anyone watching her would find her incredible in her expression of joy.
I have recognized over the years, as I become more and more aware of global issues, that it is especially in dance where people find great independence, even more so when their living circumstances do not easily provide this independence, if at all. I dare you to Google "persecution of a dancer;" you may be shocked at what you find. Granted, Palestinians are not necessarily withheld their ability to express themselves, but all over the world there are people who are imprisoned and/or punished for dancing, even killed. In such places, self-expression on any level is a crime. So, why dance in these places? Why risk the danger?
One of my favorite authors on the subject of freedom is the French 18th century philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau (by the way, Rousseau's philosophy on free-will and freedom inspired the architects of our own U.S. Constitution). There are so many inspiring things that Rousseau wrote and spoke, but this particular quote rings well with my current thoughts: “I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.” Pair that quote with this one, also by Rousseau,"Every person has a right to risk their own life for the preservation of it," and you can develop a fairly good argument, and idea, as to why people will risk their necks to dance.
Self-expression, however we choose to summon it, is not only our birth right, it is our instinct. To not create is death in and of itself for many of us. The reason why I believe self-expression is withheld from others is this: ART IS POWERFUL. It can change your mood, change your mind, maybe even change the world.
So, perhaps it will be through the arts that we will one day find that elusive world peace, but until then, let's just keep dancing and never forget how fortunate we are.