“ We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once”
“ I would only believe in a god that knows how to dance”
“How can we tell the dancer from the dance?”
Form and content fused into one. You can debate the merits of a poem, a painting, but music passes through your skin into your mitochondria without any polite notice given, an urgent physical desire to move that modern pop has exploited well.
Dancing is perhaps the ultimate in physical expression. The Supreme Ultimate, as Tai Chi means. Is Tai Chi a dance? Many think so. Perhaps it is. But for me, dancing has to be intoxicating, a self-unconscious form of spontaneous extrusion, a soul wagging its tail in delight. “When asked a question, Zarathustra danced”
If my tai chi used to be “acted out” like a script when I was a muscle buck, most of it was repertory; I was moving mostly unconsciously, my limbs following the vague blurry paths that my “master” was demonstrating with little knack for grace, style, spirals, or anything resembling the self-eating Eight Dynamic Snake that Master Ma radiates like a pulsar.
I was also probably mentally adrift on cloudbergs of randomness, reacting to incessant stimuli, and merely “existing” in a never-to-be-completed sense of futurity, always seeking out something not in the Sudden Now, occasionally re-animating, “Coming Back To Myself” and exulting in my “role” as fake warrior, a Spear Carrier in a fifth rate play playing to rustic hicks chewing tobacco.
Now, 21 years later, I am inside out. I am so assailed by physical stimuli as I move, attempting to move in a vacuum of mentality, a still space of gleaming presence, that I feel insecure in my progress. I filter and compute so many physical variables, so many dials showing the presence and functioning of so much of my movements, that I have to slow down into state of near catatonia as I attempt to right myself, to “light” the pathways of fumbling darkness that my limbs extend into when my Captain’s Bridge mind is checking something else. WHEN it is not gapping into self-forgetting! I have to hold on while something catches up, or seek to integrate and compensate for the myriad-known glitches that curtail optimum smoothness.
The result is a feeling of cohesion, of rooted expression, a lightness and a symphonic unity that cannot fail to cradle the mind in ease, but not the soporific ease of laziness or the mental Brownian Motion of the average hominid. This “lightness” literally radiates. But it is not that Dionysian ecstasy of the dance. It is, perhaps, an Apollonian clarity, a singularity of soma and psyche, body and mind. It is not even a sedate dance, dancing uses the feet first, whereas we use the entire body like a caterpillar undulating like a wave.
The wretched, lazy reflex definition of Tai Chi is “Death’s Ante-Room Shuffle”, the feeble waving goodbye to life by those resigned to the dumpster by society dismissive of the retired, the aged and “unproductive”; a compensation prize for the incontinent and senile benighters fading into dusk and dust, a last-gasp effort to shuck the inevitable barnacles of age from clogging the keel. It is seen thus as a Danse Macabre, a collective funereal ritual for the doomed.
The nations that dance the most, that have exuberant spontaneity, tend to have more bright light, more heat in the veins, more rum, reefs and rhumba. But their societies are often chaotic, blighted, and deeply unequal. The solid, practical, cold and equitable northern climes do not dancers make, Riverdance notwithstanding! In Ireland, we are also chaotic, blighted and deeply unequal. We lack the sun, we are faintly Norwegian in our genes only, so we lose on both scores. Perhaps, the tidal rhythm of the movements of tai chi can slowly melt the sediments of tension that layer the Irish psyche, its Celtic wildness neutered by a crozier and a bloody-sworded Crown. But with freedom came the paralysis of choice, a craving for demagogues, a curtailing of movement from 9-5, and a retreat from dance beyond the sloppy flails of a beery wedding or disco.
With the retreat from dance died the vestiges of sensual flirting, and romance is now sought primarily seated, sucking in vats of industrial booze. The stilted niteclubbing dance done after is shorn of romance, save for “slow sets” that allow intoxicated intimacy to proceed.
Sober sets of tai chi are not as exciting as salsa, but can train your body to move like a samba mambo, or flamenco wave. Dance your way back to life, shimmy and shimmer, jink and jive like a child, with some oriental body sets.