Word Dance Theater Manifesto

Photo by Theo Kossenas

Photo by Theo Kossenas

People have always danced. They have used dance to commune with the Gods and with nature and with each other, to express those human emotions that are beyond words, and to make sense of our existence. As with all human expression, some people were especially accomplished and dedicated themselves to perfecting their skills of expression through dance. People gathered to witness what these people had done with the common dances that all shared. They gathered to see how the old themes and dances had been made into new ones that were more refined, more extraordinary. People watched these new dances that not everyone could do, but that everyone could enjoy, because the dances mirrored back to the people the truths of their own lives. This is the ART of Dance.

Dance is unique from other art-forms because in dance the instrument is not a brush or a piano or script, but the moving human body, that human instrument that we all have and that has not changed significantly throughout humanity’s sojourn on Earth. This body, which is the temple of human intelligence, emotion, and spirit, is the instrument of the dance. When an observer sees the dancing human body, they respond through an uncontrollable kinesthetic recognition and knowing. Deep within their unconscious, within their blood and bone and muscle, they “know” what it feels like to dance. And they know why we have always danced, using our unified body/mind/spirit/emotion to express the great passions, the great questions, the great passages of our lives.

What is Dance in the 21st Century?

Humankind has both benefited and suffered from the industrialization that began around the turn of the 20th century, and now has evolved into the technological revolution of the 21st century. These innovations have allowed tremendous gains in quality of life, but at what cost? We find that we are in danger of becoming more like a machine than a human. We find that we live in a society and a world that is fragmented, having philosophically separated the mind and spirit from the body and emotions. We are increasingly separated from the world of nature both outside and within. We are alienated and ignorant of the natural grace, beauty, and intelligence of our human body, and our connection to the natural world.

Our Western medical models are built on the belief that the body can be fragmented into specialized areas with a particular doctor for each area, but with no one person who treats the whole body/mind/spirit/emotion complex. It is believed that the body is mute and dumb, the workhorse of the mind. The body is vulgarized by separating it from the mind and spirit, associating it with emotionality and physicality in the most base and banal sense of the words.  

Within this milieu, Dance has encountered tremendous pressure to become an art-form of the spectacular. Audiences accustomed to seeing spectacles of extreme endurance and theatricality on TV want to see it in the theater as well. With dance companies depending on ticket sales to support themselves, it is tempting to cater to public interest. But we must not forget our mandate. We are artists. Our task is to reflect to people the highest possibilities of what it means to be human.

What is Word Dance Theater?

Word Dance Theater is founded upon a philosophy that embraces the assumptions that art is necessary to any society, expressing that which is the highest and finest of the human condition. We believe that there is no civilization without art. We believe that art is inclusive of and celebrates beauty, truth, goodness, freedom, and other classical ideals of humankind, as well as the mysterious order and beauty of nature.

Our purpose is to awaken people to their birthright of an intelligent and enlivened body/mind/spirit. We accomplish this through presenting public concerts that reflect not only what we are as a society but what we can be through simple yet powerful movement, music, and text.  

To further accomplish our purpose we are dedicated to offering classes to all ages of people in all stages of life. These dance classes are designed to teach knowledge and respect for the body and to guide each person to an authentic experience of the joy of dancing. We are not so much interested in making spectacular dancers as we are in facilitating the natural capacity of each person to be fully embodied within themselves. In so doing, we follow in the footsteps of Isadora Duncan, the great visionary and pioneer of Modern Dance, who proclaimed, “Let us first create beautiful dancing human beings.”  

Like Isadora Duncan, Word Dance Theater, through its public presentations and classes, is dedicated to accomplishing and celebrating “the highest intelligence in the freest body.”