The universal language of dancing

The universal language of dancing

Dance is a language that transcends cultures. What’s particularly appealing about it?

Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

Dancing is a language, yes. First, we must let this be clear, language doesn’t necessarily need to be communicated through words alone. Dancers are storytellers who share their stories with their bodies. Regardless of which languages we speak, regardless of where we call home, we can all find common ground through dance. In that territory, bodies are the ones that speak.

Much like learning English as an international language for work or traveling use, dance is a language that goes beyond culture and species. In the animal and insect kingdom, for example, gestures are a form of dance moves used to attract the opposite sex. We may not have the ability to comprehend the sounds that male birds make, but we can instinctively interpret their gestures as they compete for a mate by showing off their dance moves. And just like any other mammals, even the early humans communicated through body language. Before our ancestors could adopt linguistic skills, they expressed their anger, hope, and love with movement.

Dancing: an approach to a definition

Dance is indeed part of any culture in the world and it is among the longest forms of communication that we know today. Dancing, according to the Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning, is human behavior composed of purposeful, intentionally rhythmical, and culturally influenced sequences of communicative nonverbal body movement and stillness in time, space, and effort. Dance stylizes movements, some from everyday life, with a degree of conventionality or distinctive imaginative symbolization. Each dance genre has its own aesthetic (standards of appropriateness and competency).

According to the author Judith Lynne Hanna, anthropologist and academic from Columbia University: Dance can engender visions of alternative possibilities in culture, politics, and the environment. Moreover, dance can also foster creative problem-solving and the acquisition, reinforcement, and assessment of nondance knowledge, emotional involvement, social awareness, and self and group identity[1]

Dance as a non-verbal type of communication works a lot to drive inclusivity and other important values such as connecting with human beings, listening and understanding others, the art and challenges of movement, and even transcend gender fixed roles that society imposes.  

It takes two to tango

We are naturally limited by what we see and experience in an individual manner. There are many barriers to block our view of the experience of others. What’s unique about partner dancing is that you learn to interconnect your physical experience with that of another’s. We even learn to listen and speak at the same time. This is listening in the sense of feeling what your partner’s body is ‘saying’ whilst your own body ‘speaks’. Your partner ‘follows’ the way you move your body. How they follow you feeds back into how you lead. It’s a physical kinaesthetic version of ‘me seeing you seeing me seeing you. An infinite feedback loop that attunes both people involved. This, of course, is something you come to realize after the experience of dancing for some time.

Learning to dance is very much like learning a language in that it is a medium for communication. At its best, it is a two-way conversation. In true conversation, we can connect our viewpoints. One of dancing’s very true challenges for humans is to be able to bring down our own walls when connecting with other bodies on the dance floor.

Movement may be more powerful and subtle than text when it comes to capturing the visceral dynamics of movement, and the sensual texture of experience.

The Dance Love Languages

All the dance love languages are based on the idea of connection. But, the difference lies in what kind of connection is used, and the dominant characteristic a person seeks from connection. No dancer is ‘confined’ to one love language – or prefers it all the time. Sometimes, it can depend on the partner or the music. But, for most dancers, there are one or two that speak to them more strongly than the others.

The Six Dance Love Languages are:

  • Energy. What you crave: exhilaration and flow. Energetic dancers want to be invigorated by their dances. This doesn’t mean complexity, but it does mean that they want to leave the dance with that energized feeling of having fully danced.
  • Deep Connection. What you crave: perfect synchronicity. Deep Connectors want to shut out the world and be one with their partner. What they see means little; what they feel means everything. Most would rather go slow and simple to preserve a perfect connection, as opposed to fast or complex movements that break it.
  • Challenge. What you crave: pushing the envelope. The dancers who want to be constantly pushed towards greater things are Challenge dancers. They often love tricks, dips, and challenging movements. Leads may enjoy seeing if they can ‘get the most out of their partners, while the follows may enjoy leads that ‘push the envelope with things they’ve never seen before.
  • Playfulness. What you crave: Fun! The dancers who prize playfulness just want to have fun. They don’t care as much about the sensuality or challenge, but they do want a partner who engages them in play. Whether it’s quirky patterns of movement with a twist or a particularly fun interpretation of a lyric, they want a partner who will come into the sandbox of creation with them.
  • Expression: What you crave: musicality and expression. Expression-based dancers just want to interpret the music. Within that, there are two main subtypes: Emotive and Technical. Both types usually prize being “on time” very highly. After all, how can you express the music if you aren’t dancing to it?
  • Creativity: What you crave: new, creative ways of dancing. Dancers who communicate through Creativity want to always do something new – or in a new way. They want to ‘break the rules’ and engage in co-operative creation. Regular or common movements are Ok in small doses, but they don’t satisfy the Creative.

Most people enjoy a mix of these languages. You might enjoy being challenged – but only when it expresses the music. Or, you may enjoy a deep connection, but love playfulness and energy at the same time. These languages are also useful to help us connect better with other people, one of the ultimate goals or learnings we have through this universal language of dancing.

Dance fosters collaboration and trust by breaking down barriers in a magical way. This is difficult to describe but can certainly be felt by all. Dancing will not cure diseases, will not end famines nor will it fight to bring peace. But as auniversal language, dance speaks of joy and a hope that can never be taken away.

As dance seeks to find connections through the body, we at LST strive to make you feel connected and always at home. That’s why our services provide you with experts in interpretation, localization, and translation. Visit the services section on our website to find out more.

[1] Hanna, J. L. (2008). A nonverbal language for imagining and learning: Dance education in K-12 curriculum. Educational Researcher, 37(8), 491–506.

« »