Dance Manifesto: My Opinions About Dance

Hi all,

I was assigned to write a manifesto for one of my academic courses on dance, and I would appreciate any feedback. Do you agree with me? Disagree?

Everyone Should Be a Dancer

I. Introduction

A common stereotype exists concerning the image of a dancer. All dancers have excellent posture, perfect bodily proportions which allow them to move in a way so pleasing to the eye, and they also carry themselves in a confident and assertive manner.
I am none of these. But I am a dancer.

My awkwardly long legs, short torso, thin structure, and slouchy shoulders do not lend themselves to make me look like someone who can lift their leg over their head or spin until the world ends.

I cannot do either of these. But I am a dancer.

I began dancing the first time I watched an episode of America’s Best Dance Crew. I watched the Jabbawockeez perform what appeared a very twisted version of the robot, and soon my eyes were fixed. The strong, direct movements that waved and popped across their bodies fascinated me. Curious, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror. Soon I realized my body could move in ways I had never fathomed – I propelled a wave from my right to left hand, down to my feet and back up to my right arm. Although I lacked any grace to do a pirouette or arabesque, I could pop various muscles in my body in unison to create an effect of pulsing energy – similar to the twisted version of the robot I witnessed on television.

However, I did not master these skills overnight. I probably looked like a dysfunctional octopus when I first began to wave. But with more practice, and more videos of other experienced dancers, I imitated what I saw and my waves improved. I gained more control of my body and could pop to create certain effects based on which muscles I contracted and relaxed.

I refrained from telling friends and family about my talent for a very long time. And when I did, I was met with a lot of disbelief: How can I, someone so lanky and awkwardly built, dance like famed hip-hop dancers Twitch or Comfort from So You Think You Can Dance? It just was not believable –until I gave a short demonstration. Whenever someone asked me where I had taken classes, I had no response. I did not take classes, learn from well-known instructors, or drop endless amounts of money on costumes and shoes. I learned how to dance by imitation while also creating my own unique style. Dance is an art of imitation and adjustment; to dance, you watch others, do as they do, and add your own flavor. Every single soul in the world should be a dancer instead of a spectator.

I. Dance is for All

Everyone should be a dancer, regardless of their body type or posture. We should not make assumptions concerning the ideal “look” of a dancer. A ballet dancer need not be 110 pounds and tall, and an expert popper need not be male, Asian, and muscular. People like me, who are a little awkwardly shaped, should not be discouraged because they do not fit the dancer image society has created. In fact, they should be encouraged to dance – not only in their bathroom mirrors or living rooms, but on stage performing and competing if they desire.

Everyone should be a dancer, regardless of their income or pocket change. Learning and performing dance today has become a commercial enterprise. The question is not, “how much time have you put into your dance training?” but instead, “how much money have you invested in your dance career?” Children are instructed from a very early age for multiple hours a day at high prices. Many people today, if asked if they ever danced, will respond with, “Oh no, my parents could never afford it.” While a price for dance is often associated with styles such as ballet, jazz, and tap, it is equally as apparent in the so-called “street style” of hip-hop: Middle-class nine-year-olds are placed in colorful Nike hi-tops with baggy sweatpants and are instructed by pricey choreographers to improve their hip-hop skills.

Dance should not be only for the elite. In Western society, several forms of dance including concert dance and court dance have historically existed as an activity for the elite to participate in, and an activity for the elite to witness at performances. However, this relationship is unfair and discriminatory. It not only leaves out any person whose goal does not include becoming an elite dancer, but also those who choose not to empty their pockets on dance lessons when they feel content by learning dance through imitation rather than one-on-one instruction.

Dance should not be about the number of classes you have taken, which instructors you have worked with, or the amount of money you have spent on dance classes. While these classes certainly improve technique and are necessary for those whose goal is to become a professional, elite dancer, they are out of the realm for us “normal folk” who simply want to dance just for the hell of it.

Dance should be accessible to all who desire to dance, regardless of body type or income. At D.C. Dance Collective, a studio which offers many different dance classes, the people who participate are far from the experienced hip-hop, ballet, or tap dancer. They are the average American citizen who had an interest in dance to do just that: dance. These people are not interested in becoming experienced professionals, but instead desire to move. Everyone should participate just like these dancers in similar and different ways without spending an exorbitant amount of money or becoming discouraged because they do not meet the stereotypical “look” of a dancer. Everyone should be a dancer, and everyone should enjoy it.

II. How I Impact Others

The distinction between those who dance and those who do not dance exists because of the idea that all dancers embody a specific stereotypical body type, and all dancers must acquire copious amounts of instruction in order to really learn how to dance. However, this distinction is wrong. Everyone is a dancer, including those who look nothing like the stereotype. I am a dancer through imitation of dance from television shows such as America’s Best Dance Crew as well as YouTube dance videos. Several of my friends recently learned that I could dance, and I wanted to show them they do not need to fit a stereotype or have lots of money to dance. On Sunday, April 2nd, I instructed thirteen of my friends how to wave and pop to the beat in the song “Like a G6”. By showing them that they could all dance like the dancers they traditionally watched on television and at performances, my friends realized that they all had a dancer inside of them, regardless of body type or income.
First of all, welcome to Dance Forums! And second, good job! I'm sure you'll get a lot of good feedback, as this is the right place for that... :cheers:
You assume that readers know what popping is. I don't know and probably none of your other readers will either.

Besides that problem, your essay makes some good points about body types and dance.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
I'd like to suggest that you review "In Heaven There Is No Beer?" about the Polka subculture.
The distinction between those who dance and those who do not dance exists because of the idea that all dancers embody a specific stereotypical body type, and all dancers must acquire copious amounts of instruction in order to really learn how to dance.
In Polka, and also country western, not so much.
But, maybe these don't fit your concept of dance.
Hi ah2421a,

Thank you for your thoughts. I found them to be very inspiring and authentic. I hope you received good feedback for this essay in your class because you did a very good job expressing your thoughts about dance and why dance is important to you.

First, your title is extremely effective, grabbing the reader with a bold claim from the start and taking them on a ride through your world of dance to understand how and why you define the concept for yourself. Your world of dance as you expressed it is rich with conviction, but I know that there is further richness that you could express by expanding your discussion of your experience of dance both by yourself and in conjunction with the people who influenced you, both near and distant.

they are out of the realm for us “normal folk” who simply want to dance just for the hell of it.
And isn't that just why us normal folk dance? for the hell of it. Down the sidewalk, in the bathroom after a shower, just a little head nodding on the subway even. The desire for movement for it's own sake, or as you say later:

Everyone should be a dancer, and everyone should enjoy it.
Enjoying "it" the dance for its own sake, as a value unto itself, and not exclusively for other people's consumption.

Some of the (mostly thoughtless) responses above are pointing out that your essay is missing a certain breadth of consideration for the great variance in dance traditions around the world in your discussion of the dominant concept of dance. Do not let this think that your thoughts are not incredibly relevant. They most definitely are. These people are ignoring the fact that you are obviously not attempting to talk about all dance everywhere. Your thoughts are relevant in a specific context, that of your peers and your country's media. You can stop these haters from these sort of unconstructive nitpicking by very very clear about exactly who's world of dance you are discussing and what that world does and doesn't include.You should identify that context explicitly to make the power and relevancy of your experiences absolutely undeniable to even the most crotchety reader.

The media from which you received the influence to dance is also the media from which you received your ideas on what your body must look like to dance. Identify exactly which media it is that you see these images of what a dancer can be.

I am also fascinated by the youtube videos you mentioned. These seem to be the link between the unattainable image projected by the professionals, the elite, and your attainment of that essential quality of dance that you took from the elite's TV performance. You should go into more detail what these videos were like, and who created them. Identifying by name the key players involved gives your words greater power and strength!

I would also love to hear more about your initial impressions of the dance that fascinated you. To you, Dance is all about watching others, experiencing their dance, and then being the watched and generator of movement thoughts for others. Tell us more about your personal thoughts and impressions of the experience of dancing! Privilege your experiences with your attention and descriptions, for only you can express them authentically for others to hear.

There is a very common idea that dance is better understood by a watching expert than by the dancer who is performing. This turns the dancer into a object to be judged, a thing whose meaning is assigned completely and authoritatively by an outside observer. I like your ideas better, that dance is a personal expression of experience and thought as subjective, personal, and universal as language. It is a mode of communication available to everyone, not just those who can pay others for special privileged forms of that communication.

Fantastic essay.

Alexander Rich-Shea


Well-Known Member
I'm not sure I agree with the idea that everyone "should" be a dancer. Not everyone is going to enjoy dancing, or wants to enjoy dancing. Some people just want to watch; some don't even want to do that.

I know as dancers we get very excited and think dance is the best thing since (before) sliced bread, and for many people it is. But we need to be respectful of the views, needs, and desires of others.

Language like "everyone can be a dancer" or "dance is beneficial for everyone" would be more appropriate. "Should" implies a pretty heavy value judgement. It's not wrong for someone to be uninterested in dance.


Active Member
I think it's the different types of dance that make it difficult to compare. I'm sure some people do have natural talent for certain styles, but in general to learn some dances you need quality instruction. Street, social and folk styles can be more easily learnt than the technical theatre styles or competitive ballroom, at least the basic level.
As to different body shapes - of course everyone can try all styles and get better at them, but ultimately there will be a level at where the body needs to suit. If you're simply not flexible, then ballet or jazz will be a real struggle. Those with extra weight on them will find jumps and leaps a lot more difficult to pull off.

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