Dance: An age-old universal language

Dance has the power to bring people together.

Throughout history, dance has been an expressive tool for fostering human relationships, often transcending culture and language barriers. Although dance genres have evolved and diversified over time, dance itself is still one of the most expressive physical arts.

“Dance does not discriminate. Dance is for everybody,” said Elan Dance Arts (EDA) owner Shawna Kwan. “It is the best tool to connect with yourself and then further connect with others.”

Kwan said she started dancing when she was 13 and that dance has always been a way for her body to “reflect a party of emotions.”

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“If someone is happy, they usually want to celebrate it,” Kwan said. “Many of us have little dance parties with our bodies to celebrate it.”

Smithville Dance Academy owner Sam Burgoyne-Watson said that she started dancing at the age of two. She added that she loved it so much that she made it her childhood career.

“I got into competitive dancing when I was very young, so it is safe to say I have danced my whole life, made lots of friends and had many good, positive experiences,” Burgoyne- Watson said.

Burgoyne-Watson said there are many different styles of dance, like classical, jazz, tap, and Broadway.

“When it comes to dancing, there is no right or wrong. There are lots of ways,” she said. “Different expressions can come out through dance to help you manage what is going on in your life.”

Burgoyne-Watson said she met every one of her friends through dancing.

“We never stop talking. There are life friends you meet just because you share a connection in the art,” Burgoyne-Watson said. “Till this day, those are my most loyal friends.”

Kwan said that she once went to Las Vegas with her best friend, who is a dentist. They went to a dental conference with nearly 5,000 other dentists.

“During the conference, someone approached me and said that I was not a dentist, I was a dancer,” Kwan said. “I asked that person if we knew each other. She said, yeah, I took your classes back at Western.”

Kwan said this story shows how dancing has a long-lasting impact on people’s lives. She said that she feels fortunate to be able to use dance as a vehicle to meet new people and leave a positive impact on them.

Kwan added that people may not notice it, but dance is everywhere.

“What do people look forward to the most when watching a football game or a soccer game? What movement that player will do when they score,” Kwan said. “That is what fans then copy when they are playing their games. That expressive movement is their little dance party.”

Jhanavi Patel and Vipul Patel had a different experience with dance.

They met through dancing in India and got married after some time.

“My dancing skills were at their peak when I was in my university years, so I used to do a bunch of choreographies,” Vipul Patel. He said a friend from his dance team introduced his future wife to him and the team while preparing a choreography show she later joined. Since then, their connection grew stronger with every dance and performance, and they fell in love.

“I found myself through dancing, which led me to find my significant other later in life,” he said. “We have been teaching dancing independently for about 10 years.”

Burgoyne-Watson said that in dance, each movement speaks volumes, allowing people who cannot speak comfortably or adequately to talk in another way.

“That is the problem with the world. We have lost the ability to engage with each other,” Burgoyne- Watson said. “I am a firm believer that dance solves all of that.”

Kwan said that the whole goal and purpose for having a dance studio is that she can impact people of all ages to make new friends.

“I want to be the best part of their day or week or month or year, and I want them to remember the dance’s impact on them,” Kwan said.

Burgoyne-Watson said she teaches 18 seniors in different groups, and it amazes her how they become friends when dancing. “They are all different personalities, different friend groups,” Burgoyne-Watson said. “When they enter that dance studio, they all share one passion and one goal.”

She added that it is neat to see different people who would probably never be friends outside of dance come together and appreciate one another in the studio.

“Life without music and dance is just a hollow journey hard to get through,” Burgoyne-Watson said.