It all started when I noticed that a reader had found my blog by Google-searching why dancing is a work of art. Golly, I sure hope it is.... Actually, yes, I know it is, or it can be.
Which got me to thinking, again, about what makes art. Ah, yes, that simple but endlessly slippery question. When I ask myself how to define art, I need the dictionary's help. Art is "...the expression, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing...."
When you look at that, it seems rather clear. But try applying it and you have to define beauty and aesthetic principles, and we're pretty much back to square one. Because even if you can name or describe what is beautiful, it's obviously not an absolute. What's beautiful or appealing to me may be plain or repulsive or objectionable to you.
This returns me to where I started my morning when I wanted to bring some flowers to my dad's grave. I recalled that we had received some rules about what's allowed by the cemetery's overseers. While I understand the need for some guidelines, I was taken aback by the prohibition of "unsightly" offerings.
Like art, unsightliness seems fundamentally open to interpretation, and subject to cultural reference, financial resources, personal history and choices, and other variables. Hmmmmm....
Maybe for me a key element to art comes down to intention. If the creator of the dance/painting/novella/ song/ poem, etc. aims to express a vision of beauty or something else meaningful, maybe that's art. (Same crucial role of intention in gauging "sightliness," by the way).
One thing I do know about my dancing is that it is a kinesthetic creation intended to express my sense of the meaningful and the beautiful--which is different from the pretty, although the pretty may be beautiful. But I believe the beautiful can also be ugly, sad, funny, vulnerable, awkward, potent, crazy, mundane, mysterious.
Much of what I seek to express and honor is the beauty of the human experience. I am especially inspired by notions of joy, generosity, grace, humor, redemption--and another dollop of joy. I expect your artistic intention may be quite different. Whether we like or appreciate each other's art is different from whether what we make is art.
Even if we agree about whether some creation is art, though, we often encounter the cousin of that question: when is it "appropriate" or desirable to display art? I'm personally hard-pressed to come up with a time when art isn't desirable. I say, more art! More creativity!
Which is why I danced at my dad's funeral-- as a tribute, a comfort and an affirmation. And why I dance in public places and even on days when terrible things are happening in the world. We mitigate the negativity with our positive endeavor, even if we mitigate only a wee bit. I heartily agree with master dancer Dan Wagoner when he says that dancing (and art) is a political act.
So, even if I may not always dance with a light heart, I do dance with the conviction that by engaging in the vital, positive act of creating, we make ourselves and our little corner of the universe better, richer. More vibrant.
Or, as the poet Rumi so eloquently offered: *" Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."*