Art is a three-letter word for all the different kinds of creative work in the world. The word is small, but it covers a wide range of things that people have done to make sounds, pictures, or performances that show an artist’s skill, imagination, feelings, and point of view.
There are many different kinds of art. Languages, stories, poems, prayers, proverbs, and music are all forms of art that can be heard. Visual art includes ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video, filmmaking, writing, and architecture. Drama, music, and dance are all forms of performing art. Many of these kinds of art can even be put together to make a whole piece.
So what’s the point of art?
Cave drawings are one of the earliest examples of art that we know of. They were the first time that people used symbols to communicate. Anthropologists even think that cave drawings were used by storytellers to help keep their audience’s attention. Even before the stories were written on the cave, they were told from one generation to the next. So, art has always been a way for people to share their experiences and feelings.
As an art form, dance is interesting and different because it is not solid. A dance performance is a collection of pieces that can be seen, heard, and moved that show the dancer’s skill, emotion, and energy, as well as the choreographer’s imagination, emotion, and point of view. But the dance performance is not an artefact in and of itself. Merce Cunningham said, “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”
Is that right?
I believe so. Yes, dancers can make friends, find mentors, and learn life skills through dance, but if we’re talking about dance as a performing art (which we are), I agree with Cunningham.
Dance shows can be filmed and watched again, of course. But when someone watches a dance on film, they never get the feeling of being in the theatre during the performance. They are not part of the audience and can’t share in the emotional exchange between the dancer and the audience. They don’t take part in giving and receiving energy, which is an important part of dance performance. Yes, the choreography and music can be used again for another audience (and sometimes with new dancers), but the original performance can only be seen and heard once.
Every dance show will be different, and each audience will have a different vibe. That’s what makes dance such a special and unique art form.
As dancers, we must recognise that our art is not something that can be seen or touched. By realising that our dance performance is a single, fleeting moment, we are able to understand that we need to live in that moment. We need to calm our nerves and worries and enjoy the way the music, lyrics, movement, and emotion work together. Your work in class and at rehearsals has helped you get ready for your time on stage. Enjoy every piece, every performance, and every moment.
“All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.”
― Martha Graham