DANCE FOUNDATION OF THE ARTS
by David Arthur Walters
I thank my lucky stars that I am a so-called dumb dancer, for I can state unequivocally, without presenting an elaborate argument to prove it, that dance is the foundation of all the arts.
It is with that in mind that I say any writer worth reading is a good dancer, or at least a frustrated one, whether he knows it or not. And a good singer is a dancer too, as well as an orator who can move the crowd. Likewise, the sculptor and the painter liberate us by virtue of their dance. As far as I’m concerned, the arts require little deliberation and a lot of practice. I do not mean to say that the good artist is stupid. Rather, I mean too much deliberation obstructs the expressions of the profound, primordial wisdom that inspires the creative arts. We tend to give far too much credit to man-made reason, and not enough to Reason as we find it.
It takes a lot of practice to form the disciplinary vessel required to liberate the flow of meaning. I inspire by this instant practice to let the words flow rather than force them into logical forms. I therefore fervently pray that I am able to get out of the way so that a being much wiser than I may speak through me. Perhaps later, when I find confirmation somewhere or another of what I have said, maybe in a musty old book, I shall have good cause to ponder on how I came to know something before I learned it.
Dancing all day makes for a good night’s sleep. Before I fell asleep last night, I was reading Rousseau. He had a practice of modeling his political urgings into very concise forms, which he would then use as a vocabulary for choreographing many lovely combinations. I was dreaming accordingly. It was a simple dance. A very large company was on stage, a company that comprised many small groups performing diverse variations on a grand theme. The dancers within each group had their own unique characteristics. However, the differences between the groups and the individuals within them began to diminish as the dancers approached absolute unison. I could not distinguish one form from another. I felt a great tension, as if an enormous irruption was imminent. I heard an anxious choir singing, “The Union is dangerous, the Union is dangerous, the Union is dangerous!” The chanting somehow dissolved the tension. I arose pleased and refreshed, because the tension was apparently in me, and I felt my questions about the true nature of Rousseau’s political philosophy had been danced for me in my dream.
Naturally there is a relation between the arts, and there exists special relations between each and every one of us. My special way of expressing myself might seem peculiar to you, so a little background on my dearest subject might help you to understand my way of becoming. Like so many dancers before me, I went to New York shortly after I caught dance fever. I heard someone say that New York is the dance capital of the world, so I quit a very good job and made reservations with an image in mind, a vision that dancers were waiting for me with open arms to welcome me into their loving family.
Two religious acquaintances of mine said I’d fallen into Satan’s clutches. A psychologist stated that only mentally disturbed people feel the need to dance, but comforted me with his diagnosis that actors are the most neurotic people of all. Nevertheless, off to the Big Apple I went.
As I learned to dance, I also took up my childhood love, writing, to write dance reviews and to pay for my dance classes with the proceeds. It all made a lot of sense at the time. There I was, the greatest dancer and author the world had yet to know, writing dance reviews as the means to become a so-called dumb dancer. It was a neat fit!
Little did I know that I would wind up being rejected by the critical world, or that I would be sleeping on living room floors and in closets, buying cheap vegetables and fruit with the returns on my alcoholic roommate’s empty beer cans, using slugs to beat the subway fare, and eventually wind up homeless with seventeen dollars while my friends back home were almost ready for an early retirement. But I was doing what I loved to do.
And I did meet many wonderful dancers who were also wonderful people. For example, Delilah, with whom I often commiserated over a cold quart of beer and two cheap falafel-on-pita sandwiches: several dancers I knew enjoyed beer and falafel diets in those days. I’ll never forget the story she told me, about how she found out she was a “black” girl when she was twelve years old in South America: someone gave her a whitening agent and explained the facts of discrimination to her.
Well, I eventually got tired of poverty. Some of us learn faster than others. It took me awhile to realize that, in order to survive for much longer, I would have to either start chanting Hare Krishna full time or get a day job. I was given an opportunity to write news summaries for a desktop publisher, but I turned it down because it paid next to nothing; it seems everyone is a writer if not an actor in New York, so the competition is very stiff. I stopped writing; an old friend of mine, a psychoanalyst, said not to worry, for most writers are writers just because they are unable to cope with reality.
Well, to make fourteen years quite short here, I got a great job and wound up making per month what the average writer makes in a year. The job was so great that it was also part-time, affording me the opportunity to keep dancing as well, which I did with zeal; I even performed at Lincoln Center. As for writing, I forgot all about it. That is, until I got fed up with Easy Street, quit my dream job, a job that would be the envy of any struggling artist, and took up my pen again.
Yes, I am terrified by the high failure rate of writers, and the chance that I might wind up eating dog food as an old man, or not even that, for dog food is very expensive. Nevertheless, here I go again, for I am still a so-called dumb dancer, and, as far as I am concerned, dance is the foundation of all the arts, so I may succeed at the art of writing.