The Romance of Dance

I love this essay by Romance Novelist, Hannah Fielding. Here she is writing about her book: “Burning Embers” on…

The Romance of Dance

by Hannah Fieldingon September 10th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

“I love dance. I love ballet and flamenco and folk dancing. As a young girl I dreamed of being a ballerina; now I am content to watch and be swept away by the beauty of a dance.

For me, dance in all its forms is wonderfully romantic, because it is an expression of emotion. Take this extract from my book Burning Embers:

The overture was dramatic, evoking the crack of thunder and torrential rain; stage lighting gradually turned from red to gold, conjuring the breaking of daylight. Two sculptural figures became outlined against flashes of lightning: a man and a woman, naked except for a most exiguous loincloth, like the first humans at the dawn of time — alive but not yet awake.

The music built to a crescendo together with the humming of the chorus, and the dance opened. As the sun began to rise, the man reached out to the woman, and they clasped hands. He cradled her, and languidly they lifted themselves up to their feet, their bodies brushing, their eyes lost in each other’s. Sensuously, deliberately, they danced, moving as though they were one, their body language smooth as their limbs carefully unfolded. They twirled and rocked, intertwined and separated, nearly leaning onto one another but barely touching, their movements sometimes tender, sometimes almost violent. The man’s erotic movements against his partner were at first tentatively inviting, then inciting, before becoming more and more demanding and forceful. The woman was hesitant and shy to start off with, then increasingly yielding as his caresses seemed to excite her. As she watched, Coral felt contrasting emotions ignite in her as the furious energy of the dance alternated with sudden scenes of silence.

Finally, clasped together, making full contact for the first time, the couple swayed and spun around the stage in a flowing wave motion to the provocative rhythm of the music. As the frenzy reached its paroxysm, the orchestra’s fury intensified and stopped. Moments passed while the dancers held tight to each other, as though their bodies were melting together. The expression on their features as they lifted their faces to the sky was one of unimaginable joy. The show had come to an end. The dancers, still panting, their bodies glistening with sweat, took their final bow from an audience who were stamping, shouting, and throwing flowers at them in appreciation of such masterful art.

[In “Burning Embers”] Rafe has taken Coral to see this passionate, sensual dance on a date, and it has the desired effect: by the end of the evening they have shared their first kiss.

There is something special about dance that transports us into another world: the language of the body is powerful, transformative. I wonder whether more young women than young men dance because more young women than young men are openly romantic? I think of the film Billy Elliot, about a young man’s journey to become a ballet dancer, and the opposition he faces, and I think the problem for him is largely that dance is seem as a feminine medium of expression for the very reason that it is emotion, romance, incarnate.

In the books I write, I like to create cultured heroes and heroines, and I shape male protagonists who are appreciative of dance. Rafe in Burning Embers runs a nightclub and is involved with a dancer there, so affected is he by the art form. And while Coral struggles with her jealously of Rafe’s dancer, she cannot help but be stirred by the wonderful dance show she sees on her date with Rafe. I love people who love dance. I love people who are unafraid to dance like nobody is watching. And so I love to create character with similar joie de vivre.

For dancing is just that: joy. Lord Byron said, ‘On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined’, and Frederick Nietzsche ‘would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance’. But Havelock Ellis has the final word: ‘Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is no mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself.’ Life is for loving, and life is for dancing; thus the two are inextricably intertwined.”

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