"Nothing I can see but you when you dance…"

Liz Chirico

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

I saw my first ballet at 8ish, the Nutcracker (isn’t that everyone’s first ballet experience?) and I was enthralled. The grace, the artistry, the ease with which the dancers flitted and floated (yes, I totally stole that phrase from R&H, so sue me) across the stage left me entranced. I became a bit of a dance snob though considering primarily only ballet, and musical theater (including tap) styles of dance to be truly an art form. 

I considered other forms of dance, hip-hop, contemporary, even variations on tapping such as hoofing, to be lesser. There’s no real reason. I could say I wasn’t exposed to them, i.e. those styles weren’t really featured in the classic movies of the 30s-50s which I grew up watching. Those styles weren’t really accessible to me living in a mostly white, middle-class suburb in southern CT. Mostly I formed an idea, an opinion in my head that other forms of dance wasn’t truly art, that those dancers weren’t true artists. I regret and sincerely apologize for my snobbery and my unfortunately attitude. Because that opinion cut myself off from so much beauty and inspiration.

Being a member of a dance company this past year, watching incredibly talented people move in ways other than what I always viewed as dance has been humbling. The styles are like nothing I grew up watching. It’s hip-hop, and contemporary; it’s raw and it’s real. Some move their bodies in ways I can’t fathom. If it looks easy to you, if it looks effortless it probably took hundreds of hours of training, sweat, blood and tears to move that way. And to move you. Regardless of the type of dance, those artists take emotions, feelings and translate it into something you can see and feel. Which is the whole point of dance. Dance is meant to move you without words. And I understand now that how dance moves the viewer, how it makes you feel is more important than how the artist is moving.

Dance, like most art forms, is subjective. What one considers brilliant, someone else might view as pedantic. Try not to be a snob though. Watch it first, maybe take a class or two yourself but give it a before you close yourself off to anything.