Chapter 2- Jupiter-The Human Animal and Dance;
Drama-Aspiration and Vision (Gnosis)
When we look back at cave paintings and rituals from around the world what remains tells us that the Ancient ones found their way into god’s presence through attempting to act like elements or animals. The Ancients encountered exhilaration, inspiration and the experience of altered states through their “act”. The Ancients could not merely dance their way into heaven as a human being. They had to become something else. The dance was the Way to do this. It facilitated transformation at which point the dancer could “see” or experience a connection with the god(s). The audience of the dance too could be affected by watching this- they too were witnesses of the transformation of the dancer. (for further reading see Sachs “History of Dance”).
Until the appearance of Christ, few representations existed in any culture of a human representative or mediator who stood before the gods (though the Greeks depicted the gods themselves as human). The Mayans touched on it with one statue (see the lectures of Ehrenfried Pfeiffer). Men and women –as a rule – had to become other than themselves -to get to and through the gate of Heaven, to see the faces of the gods and goddesses. The dancer who made their way into communion with the gods had to become an element or an animal, a sun or a star. Once the dancer became something else, they could “talk to” the gods who controlled heaven and earth and so also- the lives of men and women on earth.
One of the greatest mythic embodiments of the “Dancing Shape-shifter” was the Greek god called “Proteus”. It is his name which has given us a word for the substance of strength we call “Protein”. Proteus, in many ways is an expression of the creative and physically adaptive nature possible in a human being. In his battle with Hercules, Proteus was able to escape the control of Hercules because Proteus could change from one animal into another. In many ways Proteus is connected to the human physical sense of freedom. This sense of freedom is found in the range of expression found in the human body. This freedom of expression no animal has. With this freedom of expression is a downside-the human takes up to twenty five years to complete development, and the human baby is remarkably weak and unable to defend itself– for years! But the human, weak physically in comparison to his animal cousins- has the body and mind to dance, becoming like nearly any animal! The human can not only act like an animal, he/she can “act” like another human! The range of expression, physical variation and mimetic ability puts him apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It is the strange non-specificity of the human body-and its weakness- that allows for this and sets the human being apart. Most new- born animals are ready for the wild in a matter of weeks. But a human baby requires years to mature. Moreover the faculty of imagination occupies the human body to such an extant that it can act like another human- in an imagined situation! This comes from a third layer of consciousness which is the capacity to witness oneself. We can help teach this kind of consciousness to one another and that is the heart of stage drama, which again, connects deeply to body movement and dance. It is the path of stage drama which is the way to encourage an introverted child to be more expressive and “come to themselves”.
To summarize, physical dance at its root is about mime and self observation. Mime or Imitation is the first step of learning among animals and humans and it continues as a technique of learning in the adult. Self Observation is the beginning of the path of consciousness for the human. Throughout history it is the dance or mimicry of movement(drama) which has been the initial path for education- whether learning new physical skills, self observation or aspects of our physical and psychological nature.