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Building Community Through Traditional Dance

In many countries of the world, traditional dance is an everyday part of the culture. People come together to celebrate festivals, births, weddings, feast days and other life events through dancing. Everyone is a dancer. Traditional dances are generally not very difficult. Everyone can feel successful in a very short time.

Although traditional dance is not a large part of our mainstream culture, one can create a micro-dance culture in a classroom, school, recreation center, camp or wedding. This micro-dance culture can take place in as short a time as one evening or, in a classroom, throughout the entire school year.
At a wedding or community dance, there is an opportunity for mixed generations to dance together. This kind of sharing creates new relationships and bridges between people. In the classroom dancing can, in addition to being a lot of fun, be a means of teaching mutual respect and group cooperation. As students’ awareness grows, they realize the importance of being respectful. Without a feeling of respect among the dancers, the dances are no longer fun.

It is important to explain the meaning of words like ‘partner’ and ‘couple’ in the context of traditional dance. These words can cause anxiety among some students. We define the word ‘partner’ as a helper. A ‘couple’ refers to two people helping each other learn the dance. The word ‘couple’ is used to mean ‘two’, as in the phrase, ‘a couple of pencils’. Remind the students that when each dance ends they can say ‘thank you’, and then that person is no longer their partner. Learning how to work and play with a variety of people is at the core of creating a healthy community. See CHOOSING PARTNERS.

There are many wonderful experiences that come out of community or classroom dancing. One is the pure exhilaration generated by a group of people moving together to great music. Another is the new friendships and relationships that come from dancing in a community.

Read the New England Dancing Masters Black Lives Matter statement.BLM Statement