The Dance of Light and Dark

Hear me read this post.

A per­son­’s life is a dance. A flow­ing move­ment, a pat­tern and a break­ing pat­tern, a turn and a reverse. And, yes, also more than a sin­gle mis­step. There is no one right way to do it and so you prac­tice align­ment with your image of what the dance is sup­posed to be — at least to you. And the greater part of the mys­tery is that you dance with a hid­den, inner part­ner rep­re­sent­ing all those aspects of your­self that are yet unknown to you.

The beau­ty of dance, like all arts, is not in the pure per­for­mance, not in how flaw­less or tech­ni­cal­ly bril­liant the dance becomes, but what comes through in the human per­for­mance. The dance is always more than what we see: what has been chore­o­graphed and rehearsed. The dance also reveals the dancer’s pri­vate human sto­ry and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, her deep­er range of impuls­es, thoughts, images, intu­itions and feel­ings. They flick­er across her face and give their life to the sway of her body. The dance is about her as unique­ly some­one. These aspects come for­ward bid­den by the music in the moment, and often only slight­ly chan­nelled by the illu­sions and rhythms of art. Her good and her bad are in the rit­u­al dance, her skilled and unskilled selves, the con­trolled and more fla­grant parts of her being, her illu­mined and shad­owed fea­tures — all slid­ing one into the oth­er like waves in a slant of sun. An awk­ward dancer who is true to her­self may be the bet­ter one after all, in her abil­i­ty to be her whole, vul­ner­a­ble self; in her inabil­i­ty to be false. The best, most mas­ter­ful dancers, the mem­o­rable ones, nev­er lose this qual­i­ty of vul­ner­a­ble indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. No mat­ter how good, their souls are nev­er sub­merged by perfection.

The secret is this: in the dance of our inner light and dark we all become part of an out­er light and and out­er dark­ness; sun and moon, mid­night and dawn. This con­nec­tion makes the dance a cos­mic and spir­i­tu­al thing which can­not be con­tained. Beyond time and space, the dance is a part of our nature and a part of Nature itself, and in that is enor­mous pow­er and mag­ic and exquis­ite grace.


  • Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Dan,
    A beau­ti­ful piece of poet­ic prose. It is some­times dif­fi­cult to hear the life music to which one should be danc­ing. We get off step or lose the beat. When on track and in tune with the music, we flow in har­mo­ny with the uni­verse. When off track, every step seems to be a strug­gle. I think that’s how one know they are fol­low­ing their call­ing. Life is more flu­id, just like a grace­ful body in a beau­ti­ful dance. I, for one, am still try­ing to get in step with what my life dance is to be.

  • Well, Jane, I think you’ve said it per­fect­ly. Sure­ly some part of us is already “in step” and oth­er parts are still learn­ing. And learn­ing might not be exact­ly the right word. It may be unlearn­ing wrong dances in order to remem­ber the right one.

  • Dan,

    Your blog­ging fre­quen­cy may have decreased recent­ly, but the mag­ni­tude is as high as ever.

    This post weaves togeth­er a num­ber of pat­terns and sources of inspi­ra­tion for me.

    Per­son­al­ly, I find danc­ing very chal­leng­ing, and I know that this is inti­mate­ly tied to issues of self-esteem, self-judg­ment, and my pro­jec­tions onto oth­ers — that they, too, are judg­ing me. As such, I know that danc­ing pro­vides a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty for prac­tice, and for explor­ing — and reveal­ing — my shad­ows and my light.

    Your obser­va­tion about no sin­gle right way to do it, onto which I project my own desire for [self]acceptance, reminds me of Ori­ah Moun­tain Dream­er’s moti­va­tion behind writ­ing the poem (and book) The Dance:

    The Dance is the sto­ry of how we can live soul­ful­ly on a dai­ly basis. It is the sto­ry of my dis­cov­ery that the ques­tion is not Why are we so infre­quent­ly the peo­ple we want to be? but rather Why do we so infre­quent­ly want to be the peo­ple we real­ly are?

    Your obser­va­tion regard­ing unique­ness of the dance[r] reminds me of yet anoth­er source of inspi­ra­tion, a quote I’ve seen attrib­uted to the dancers, chore­o­g­ra­phers and women of wis­dom Martha Gra­ham and Agnes De Mille:

    There is a vital­i­ty, a life force, a quickening
    That is trans­lat­ed through you into action,
    And because there is only one of you in all time,
    This expres­sion is unique.

    If you block it,
    It will nev­er exist through any oth­er medium
    And will be lost.
    The world will not have it.
    It is not your busi­ness to deter­mine how good it is;
    nor how valu­able it is;
    Nor how it com­pares with oth­er expressions.
    It is your busi­ness to keep it yours, clear­ly and directly,
    To keep the chan­nel open.

    You do not have to believe in your­self or your work.
    You have to keep open and aware and directly
    To the urges that moti­vate you.

    Keep the chan­nel open.
    No artist is pleased.
    There is no sat­is­fac­tion what­ev­er at any time.
    There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;
    A blessed unrest that keeps us marching
    And makes us more alive than the others.”

    Thanks for adding your inspi­ra­tion into this exquis­ite crucible!

  • Joe

    The poem from Martha Gra­ham and Agnes de Mille is stun­ning. These lines were par­tic­u­lar­ly mean­ing­ful to me:

    It is not your busi­ness to deter­mine how good it is;
    nor how valu­able it is;
    Nor how it com­pares with oth­er expressions.
    It is your busi­ness to keep it yours, clear­ly and directly,
    To keep the chan­nel open.”

    I think this means we get hooked on the dance as a per­for­mance for oth­ers, rather than a con­tri­bu­tion to a whole so vast we can­not name it. We alter and adjust our per­for­mances for one anoth­er; we cope, instead of releas­ing what we are meant to express ful­ly, unique­ly, and for its own sake. The cos­mos we see is only what our sens­es allow us to see. The self we see is only what our minds allow us to see. But the dance embraces every­thing, espe­cial­ly the parts that are yet unknown. 

    It is nat­ur­al to feel awk­ward­ness and to expe­ri­ence self-judg­ment. But then there are also those moments, when we for­get our­selves, maybe for just a sec­ond, and the flows hap­pens. Like a foun­tain that is only on when we turn our backs, the “water” of our radi­ance flows through us best when we are not looking.

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.