My dance class had a guest teacher who is a renowned Flamenco dancer of thirty years performance experience. In Flamenco, although young dancers are admired for their speed and agility, they are not considered to have the emotional maturity to adequately convey the duende or soul of true dance. The most respected Flamenco dancers are the older dancers who long ago mastered their technique and now perhaps do less with their body but much more with their soul.

Of course, young dancers have a beautiful, strong, flexible, and resilient body. And they have the fire of hope in their heart. However, the fire can be a bit feral, like a young alley cat; it goes everywhere, in all directions, willy-nilly, it can turn all claws and spitting or it can get nervous and run away. It pretends things that aren’t true and is afraid of showing what is true. The older cat bides his time. He has patience. He pulls the fire inside and lets it smoulder. He doesn’t waste his energy on fights not worth the battle or where the casualties would be greater than the goal. He owns his failures like scars that say it would be wise to take him seriously. He is not ashamed of his loves. He values his spirit and lets it grow. It’s in the eyes. The body may move less but it has presence and a power of a different sort. It is authentic.

One of the directors of the Australian Ballet said, “By the time you are old enough to understand ballet, you are too old to do it.” Ballet, being one of the most difficult of dance forms, usually requires the athleticism of youth, but the depth of ballet’s stories is often lost on the young dancers.

Dancing relieves the pain of normal life and elevates the dancer into a space where there is less thought and more nowness. That attentive presence brings us, hopefully, more than occasionally, to the point where we are directly sitting in the stream of what is left after thought – the effortless, worry-less space of harmonious presence. You could also call it prayer if you had a spiritual vocabulary. But no matter, the words aren’t important. What is important is an experience of that presence. Of course, it is available in any activity in life with the right mindset. Every time we are in it, a day is taken off our age. Or if we are still young, more substance is added to our power and influence.

This article is from Dance: A Spiritual Affair

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