Friday 21 November 2014

Strictly More Dancing (2) | Weddings, Namings, Funerals and Other Ceremonies and Celebrations

Continuing to reflect on the place of dance in ritual, ceremony and celebration it is common of course for dancing to take place at the reception after a wedding, commitment, or renewal of vows ceremony and at anniversary do’s also. The Ballroom and Latin revival means that more couples are taking lessons to prepare for their ‘first dance’ at the reception or party. This is not the only surprise that some delight their guests with or indeed one half of the couple springs on their partner; the latest craze being the Flash Mob with grooms and their groomsmen/women and brides and their attendants and others all joining in the choreographed fun. There are loads of examples on YouTube. 

Parties following baby and child namings, and other rites of passage such as birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, gradations, retirements . . . may also include the opportunity to move to the music. Children are wonderful dancers, uninhibited and free. When we get older though self-consciousness sometimes takes over, more often for males than females it seems, and we worry about how we look and whether or not we're getting 'it right'. Sadly, 'presentation of self' (as defined by the sociologist Erving Goffman (1959) as how we perform in front of others in order to create an impression of ourselves) takes over from self-expression. 

If there were more opportunities for us all to dance, if dancing was more embedded in our ceremonies and celebrations maybe that might make it easier. After all social inhibition is learned and not universally experienced. So why not dancing at the actual ceremony, alongside sing-a-longs to the chosen music? Dancing can be romantic, soothing, beautiful, funny, sexy. What a better way to celebrate happy occasions such as weddings, relationship commitments, renewal of vows and namings. And what of the funeral ceremony? A funeral is, or should be, focused on the life of the person who has died. There is usually music, that is significant is some way to the bereaved and the person they have lost. Music often leads to movement; foot tapping, swaying, dancing. Again such a good way to celebrate a life. So why not dancing at a funeral? I certainly want there to be some at mine; maybe to Martha and the Vandellas . . .

Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Anchor Books 

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