top of page
  • George Samuels

On Dance & Community

Back at university in 2012, I wrote a thesis paper about "cultural animation" and the 5 elements I found inherent in most indigenous oral storytelling traditions. One of those elements was Song & Dance.

Then I stumbled upon this article via @ShaneAParrish:

"Do we dance simply for recreation? Or is there a primal urge that compels us to do it? Historian William McNeill claims it saved our species by creating community togetherness and transforming “me” into “we.”"

When it comes to #community online, song and dance is lacking in its traditional form. But where you see it making a comeback is in the form of #memes, dancing on #TikTok, and fire-chat virality via @joinClubhouse.

If you haven't yet seen the film Happy Feet, I highly recommend watching. It shows a culture of singers, and very few dancers, but then comes along a character called Happy.

It's an analogy of today's world - many voices, few in their bodies. Tech is catching up.

Mentioning Happy here is about getting us to become more in-tune with our own bodies (within), while also providing alternatives to those who have the loudest voices (external - social media "influencers").

This ends up helping balance out the whole community.

There are many examples of where song and dance are powerful ways to bond communities. Take for example soldiers at war. It wasn't uncommon for platoons to sing together, and even take time to dance, as a way of releasing stress and/or synching up.

The group/collective dancing is an informal way of getting everyone in sync. You might not see it as such, but pack marches are the foundations of this "group-dancing". It's rhythmic yet hypnotizing to watch (and also be part of).

Now, you might also remember a scene from the film Avatar (by @jamescameron), where the Na'vi chanted in a circle around a great tree. This group-syncing is something that's deeply embedded into our psyches, which is why you'll often see the same [tribal] behavior online.

But if you can understand where this comes from, historically, you can start to understand why individualism often caves to "collectivism." It is not necessarily because the collective is "bad", but because collective cooperation historically accelerated healing & survival.

You ever wonder why TikTok dance moves become so viral? It’s because it gets the bodied engaged. Dance is also something that doesn’t have a language barrier, which is great for connecting people. But note also there’s a certain “style” that is common for TikTokers.

The question now is, what are some examples of song and dance in your own communities - online or offline?

How could you incorporate it in a way that made sense for “your people”?