Dance, After The Time Of Corona

The power of our connective tissue.

by Josef Brown.

It’s a veritable cliché to hear that difficult times bring out the best and worst of humanity. And yet, in recent weeks we’ve all witnessed the truth of this statement.

We’ve watched the unnecessary hoarding of essential items and medical supplies causing extra stress to the general public, the elderly, those vulnerable to illness, and to our medical community. We’ve seen the surreal images of fights in supermarkets over toilet paper and thousands congregating on beaches or in parks in contravention of medical directives to physically distance.

On the other hand, we’ve seen the generosity and compassion of individuals and community groups come to the fore, bringing care packages to those in need. We’ve witnessed people finding fresh ways to retain their sense of community and humanity, sharing humour, understanding and inspiration. We’ve experienced the innate adaptability of our species as small and large businesses the world over, have quickly harnessed their creative potential to move their services online. And hundreds of millions, if not billions of people all over the world are heeding the advice of scientific experts choosing to physically distance themselves and quarantine. They’re doing so, though they may not be personally concerned for their own health or safety, in the hope that they’re playing their small part in reducing the rate of infection and as such, being of service to our brave medical community as they scramble to stay on top of the virus.

In our shared dance community, we’ve seen studios reach out to one another, studio Principals collaborating, providing emotional support, sharing online material or online tools as they quickly try to navigate into the unknown. We’ve had dance companies, individual artists and brands freely sharing their knowledge, giving their time and offering any and all information to try to make the transition to online learning, hibernation and physical distancing that little bit more bearable. 

The difference between the two is stark. One set of people are choosing to focus on their own immediate needs and wants, or on the immediate needs and wants of their small tribe i.e. their family.

In contrast, the others are able to perceive and feel for those beyond their own tiny tribal boundaries and alliances, connecting across suburbs, cities and Nations. Indeed, connecting across race, language and culture understanding that, as never before we’re all in this together. That this pandemic could be a defining moment for our species and that perhaps we’ll never completely return to business as usual, and we may be all the better for it.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

~ Dalai Lama

Strip away language, culture, distance, arbitrarily pencilled borders and underneath it all, most of us simply crave to be healthy; to spend time with family and friends, to care for them, enjoy their company, to educate our young and provide them with security and opportunity. We realise that, as the other cliché instructs; there is so much more that bonds us, than separates.

What this crisis has shown itself so very clearly is that we are deeply and irrevocably connected as a species sharing our planet. And that it is not competition that will define our future; but instead, it will be our capacity to connect and collaborate. To reach out to one another and share resources, ideas, knowledge, understanding and to build bridges of compassion and creativity. Therein lies the strength and future of our species.

Of course, there will be naysayers as there always are. Floundering in the ashes of this disruption there will be some that propose we retreat ever more tightly into our tribal shells. They will wave banners and flags and raise their voices arguing that we put, “Australia First”, “America First” or “China First” etc. That we only buy Nationally made, that we more tightly control trade and our borders.

But the paradigm of such tribal thinking is long past. The reality is, humanity transcended that state long ago, and we cannot allow fear to shrivel us into believing such a narrow view now.

The flag needing to be flown recognises humanity as one deeply interconnected species, and that we are only ever as strong as our weakest link. And so, we need to be ever more committed to raising the living standards of all, to caring for all. Further, this pandemic like those that have preceded it, should stand as a clear signal that we are also intrinsically connected to the planet we inhabit; that we are Earth, wedded indivisibly to all other species we share this planet with and how we treat them will also define our progress and health.

“Dancing will not cure diseases, will not end famines nor will it fight to bring peace. But as a universal language, dance speaks of joy and a hope that can never be taken away.”

~ Lauren Clingan and Xuexin Cai

It’s often said, dance is a universal language. While I’m warmed by the sentiment, my experience and travels have meant I’ve never wholly subscribed to this view. There are many nuances and subtleties in culture that mean specific dances cannot always transcend borders any more or less than the tastes and textures of a meal, a flag, or a melody. Art will always be subjective and beauty in the eye of the beholder.

But what we can all appreciate and connect with, just as hunger compels us all to eat, is that there is a pull and gravity that impels us to want to dance. There’s a shared inner spirit that burns within, that excitedly feels the pulse of the universe and the melody of a life that wants to burst out expressing through the body, both individually and collectively.

And so, as I reach forward and ponder our lives post this latest natural disaster, I wonder if as a dance community there’s a job to do; perhaps a mission. To lightly place down our usual tribal loyalties and rise up as cultural leaders, drawing on the phenomenal innate creativity within our industry to forge examples that develop new collaborative pathways both within our local communities, and across the world. To be part of building bridges, instead of walls.

For as this challenge passes and we slowly peek out from our forced economic and social hibernation, perhaps we’ll come to see this interval as one of opportunity; a time for renewal, to refresh and to re-boot.

My sense and hope is that, leading this renewal will be the defining work for artists and dance, after the time after Corona.

“The real antidote to epidemic is not segregation,but rather cooperation.”

~ Yuval Noah Harari

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