Afterwards, we compared notes on the comments we had heard from the onlookers. The one most often repeated was “that had to be choreographed.” But it wasn’t.
The label of “tribal” refers to several aspects of this particular dance form. The first is the amalgamation of influences and styles that inform both the music and movements. The second alludes to the fact that the dancers work as a community (or tribe) to develop a shared vocabulary of moves and cues, and that in turn allows for spontaneous improvisation in casual settings as well as public performances. In the video above, my teacher, Vikki, is leading the dancers, but usually the leadership position is rotated throughout the group and thus each individual becomes a participant in a communal act of creativity.
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On a more personal note…
My mother was a singer, and I grew up in a home that was filled with song, always. Musicals were also a stock part of the household. I spent a number of my formative years believing that people habitually burst into song and dance as a means of communication and self-expression, so being a part of last weekend’s flashmob felt very much like an extension of my upbringing.
I also enjoyed taking dance to the streets because a good part of my philosophy on art revolves around the idea that it is one of the things that can initiate a sideways step away from the mundane and into the magical, in terms of both creation and response. Oliver Hunter’s short essay, “On life, art and magic” (found towards the bottom of this link) eloquently expresses a similar sentiment. I've long been an admirer of his artwork and, because it is now National Poetry Month, I'll leave you with a postcard (via the archived Endicott Studio) that combines one of his paintings with a quote from one of my favorite poets, John Donne: