Amplification: The Dance

Jane Harrison says that primitive man 'is aware of action'. Instead of asking a god to do what he wants done, he does it or tries to do it himself; instead of prayers he utters spells. In a word he practices magic, and above all he is strenuously and frequently engaged in dancing magical dances. ...

We have some modern prejudice and misunderstanding to overcome. Dancing is to us a light form of recreation practiced by the quite young from sheer joie de vivre and essentially inappropriate to the mature. But among the Tarahumares of Mexico the word nolàvoa means both 'to work' and 'to dance'. An old man will reproach a young man saying 'Why do you not go and work?' (nolàvoa). He means 'why do you not dance instead of looking on?' It is strange to us to learn that among primitive peoples, as a man passes from childhood to youth, from youth to mature manhood, so the number of his 'dances' increase, and the number of these 'dances' is the measure of his social importance. Finally, in extreme old age he falls out, he ceases to exist, because he cannot dance (Harrison 4, pp.30-31).

The psychological meaning of this is that he becomes himself and related to the world around him by dancing. It is almost as if he recreates himself and nature each time he dances. By this action he is incarnated and becomes real to himself; it is a coming into consciousness of being. I am reminded again that the theme of dancing often occurred for my patient at times of inner transition.