The hidden language of dance

If dance is not the ultimate human expression of nonverbal language, it’s very close to it.

A dancer, through movements, gestures and attitude, will be able to completely undress his soul without needing to say any words. She/he will tell you anything in silence.

Dance has always been a way of communication and transmission of knowledge between generations, and between people.

For example:

Raks Sharki sought the celebration of fertility, strength and power to give life, that’s why it is a characteristic dance of woman, with a market sensual, captivating  and seductive character, because it is manifesting the power of creation, of generating life.

The Dances of  such an exotic places as Hawaii (Hula), or Polinesian Islands ( Ori Tahití) were born as a meansto transmit the knowledge of the people to future generations, so that the stories and wisdom acquired by the ancestors will endure over time. Therefore, these dances, far from seeking to entertain, (but also, logycally, they entertain) are created to tell stories. Here the hands draw during the dance performance an authentic sign language that, even having aesthetic beauty, is not born for that purpose but the movement is created to narrate an action, describe an object, a moment, a place, an emotion…

So, like this two examples of dances that I just told you,  all dances have that nonverbal language that emerges from the ensemble. And that set are the tools that a dancer can use to transmit the nonverbal language.

These tools are:

  • Music  chosen for dance, that may or may not be sung, but will always convey a type of emotion and associated energy.
  • The costumes and makeup. The image of the artist, its characterization, will lead to the character, and the type of character will already be influencing the nonverbal message.
  • The artist itself. All the physical and psychic aspects of the dancer (its sex, the color of its skin, its appearance, its attitude, its expressiveness, its emotional state at that time , its energy, etc) will influence the message.
  • The movements that are executed during the dance,  its shape, its speed, its breadth, its projection on stage, will serve to manifest and tell.
  • The Gestures. The face of the dancer during the execution of a movement, displacement or pose, will also increase the content of nonverbal  language.
  • Esternal elements, any object that is part of the scenography, or that is an accompanying element of the dancer, will influence the message. For example, a very special element, because of its subtlety, it  is not visible but is very powerful, it is the case of perfumes…oriental dancers from the origin of raks sharki, took into account what  scented oils to use to create a concrete atmosphere when they danced,  since their interaction too close to the public made this nonverbal language of perfume very important, which was neither casual or random.
If you investigate the evolution of the history of dance, you can see that as the same time the dance evolves, the hidden language of the dance, its message, does it, hand in hand.

A very clear example is the Ballet. If you observe, many of the great works that have gone down in history as; Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, Sleeping beauty or The Red Shoes, for example, have women as protagonists, who play characters that move in a delicate way, with apparent weakness and fragility, are characters that suffer tragedies and, in many cases the end of it is fatal or requires a male figure or a male power to save himself. It could be deduced that the nonverbal language that these works convey is to associate feminity and beauty with tragedy, weakness, fragility or suffering. Of course the origin of this association is in our minds, because it is created in our subconscious, both individual and collective, A work, itself, may not have a specific hidden intention, but it does have the interpretation that our mind makes of it. The truth is that this interpretation has been assumed for a long time, not only through but through all the ways of expressing society, society already assumed these concepts and therefore the works transmitted that hidden language.

For all this, it is important to be aware of the power and value of nonverbal language in our lifes and our dance.

As I said, that is broadly a characteristic of classical dance in its beginnings , but in its evolution this has changed exponentially. Now contemporany dance represents scenses totally opposite to was has been described above, where the feminine, social, political and other arts changes are empowered. In addition, classical ballet is always more structured: a dramaturgy with a beginning, development, climax and outcome. However in contemporany dance the story may be nonlinear, that there is not structure,or any concrete story, all this contributes to change the hidden language.

I would like to mention in this article a very interesting case of appearance and nonverbal language different but complemented, and it is the case of an especially powerful and powerful dance: this is the Haka.

Haka is a traditional dance of the Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand), and consists of a ritual for war.

Its main purpose is not precisely what it appears to be; the first thing that comes to mind when we see one of these dances, is a group of me (although nowadays women also practice it) acting fiercely, with intimidation,  with an exhibition of strength, to sow fear in their opponents. The set of grunts, strong gestures,  (like sticking out the tongue) the warrior poses, the kicks, the martial, dry and energetic movements of the arms, all these ingredients generate a coktail of intimidation. But the curious thing about Haka is; their nonverbal language, which is not so obvious but still reaches the subconscious, is that the real motivation is not to intimidate but to prepare oneself for the challenge, to the battle of life, seeks the suggestion of the dancer itself for motivation and psychological preparation for what is to come, seeks to take advantage of its own fear to activate the inner strengh.

And even more curious is that the origin of these dances is far from being of a military nature, because according to the mithology of the place, haka is a dance that deals with the celebration of life.

All dance styles have their hidden language, they all seek to convey, with more or less evidente, a set of messages, emotions and sensations to the viewer.

It will be very interesting and revealing for you, that, when you see a dance show, from now on, in addition to enjoying it and staying with the story of the script, with the main and obvious message, consider associating in you mind all those elements that I have defined previously and that make up the nonverbal language, and It will happen that you will discover, by joining of the pieces of the puzzle, a hidden language with a very special message, which may be interesting or not, scary or inspiring, conflicting or reconciling, but surely never may be indifferent.

and you? Have you experienced this nonverbal comunication in a show you have seen?

Have you ever created a dance where you were looking for to convey a specific message?


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