Friday, April 10, 2015

Kimerer L. LaMothe's "Why We Dance"

Kimerer L. LaMothe is a dancer, philosopher, and scholar of religion who lives on a farm in upstate New York with her life partner, two oxen, two horses, three cows, four cats, eleven hens, and five children.

LaMothe is the author of numerous articles and five books, including Nietzsche’s Dancers: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and the Revaluation of Christian Values, Between Dancing and Writing: The Practice of Religious Studies, and her latest, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Why We Dance and reported the following:
When I first flipped to page 99, I thought: Oh no. My book is nothing like this. I don’t even use the word “dance”!

Page 99 appears near the end of chapter 4, “To Dance is to Be Born.” It appears a page after I have just finished tying up a large argument in which I weave an account of my fifth child’s birth through a discussion of birth in the human species from an evolutionary perspective, in order to make the case that humans are creatures for whom dance is a “biological necessity.” Exciting!

On page 99, I am taking a bit of a breather, shifting gears, and citing developments in the scientific literature that bolster this argument. Not so exciting.

Then again, I thought, perhaps page 99 is perfect after all. It shows that Why We Dance is not only or merely about dance. This book is about what it means to be human. In it, “dance” serves as a catalyst for reconsidering and revising assumptions about humans that animate contemporary culture and its scholarship.

Chapter 4, for example, challenges the idea that “we” humans are minds who live in bodies. The scientific discoveries I describe on page 99 are building the case that our brains and the “mindness states” they generate “have evolved for the express purpose of helping us move our bodily selves in the most efficient, expedient, and expressive ways” (from page 98). These studies indicate that how we move our bodily selves matters to the biological development of our brains. Or rather, they indicate that how our bodily selves move makes it possible for us to have a brain that can think of itself as “I” at all.

Page 99, then, is not just evidence in support of my argument; it is an exploration of its implications. Page 99 offers new ways to appreciate the significance of facts we have already gathered for understanding why and how dance is vital to our humanity. That, to me, is exciting.
Visit Kimerer L. LaMothe's website.

--Marshal Zeringue