Is there objective beauty in dancing?

Yes, there is (at least in theory). 

That means I believe that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but has something objective about it. That means it can be viewed independently of cultures, preferences, and human biology. 

Even if you resist this idea, maybe you can (for fun) get involved with the idea. By the end of the blog post, you'll be surprised at the kind of perspective I'm trying to convey here. 

My daring statement will probably raise all sorts of questions and resistance for you too. That's why I'm trying to answer the most important questions in the following four paragraphs.

What role does beauty play in dancing?

“Definitely not the lead,” I tell my students in the Forro-Hours. But that is my philosophy, 'my' truth - not THE truth. 

I would argue that there are many dancers who care a lot about how a dance looks, both when they are dancing themselves and when they are watching a couple. These forrozeir@s consider (knowingly or not) the forró as a form of art. From these points of view, more beautiful and less beautiful works of art exist, just as more beautiful and less beautiful works of art are exhibited in a museum. 

This is (obviously) a legitimate philosophy, and I'll stick to it for simplicity from now on dance artists name. Dance artists consider it progress when they dance more aesthetically and admire dances primarily for their beauty. On the other hand, they do not share admiration for dances that are not beautiful. 

Dance artists are opposed to various other philosophies that do not understand dance as an art form. One of them, for example, is that of the 'expressive dancers'. By that I mean those who prefer dance moves not because of their aesthetics, but because they suit their inner state. They try to express this state with movements. For them, progress consists in being able to express themselves more fully and they admire others above all for their authentic expression in dance (although they cannot judge it definitively). So it's entirely possible that they consider an 'ugly' or 'boring' movement to be desirable because that movement expresses their emotions. 

There are certainly more philosophies, but these two are enough to show that there are different ones to choose from. You don't have to make a final decision, you can switch back and forth between the philosophies (e.g. one dance as a dance artist, the next as a freelance dancer). Ultimately, however, you have to decide on a philosophy at every moment. This means that every forrozeir@ decides for himself which role beauty plays for him or her in the forró. 

What speaks for objective beauty?

Beauty is not a matter of content, but a matter of form. The same thing (eg a photo, or a movement) can be shaped more beautifully and ugly. This suggests that there is a hypothetical 'ideal shape'. 

If you don't agree with me yet, consider: Is there an objective difference in beauty between someone dancing for the first time in their life and someone with many years of dance experience? Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? Or wouldn't most people agree here?

But (you might object) just because most people agree on a broad distinction between beautiful and ugly doesn't mean we can be halfway objective in judging whether something is aesthetic!

That's correct. An explanation is missing and for that we have to look briefly at objective beauty outside of dance: Why are flowers beautiful? Why the flowers and not the roots? Why do we find flowers beautiful that we have never seen before? Quantum physicist David Deutsch claimsthat objectively 'beautiful' flowers had a selective advantage in co-evolution with insects. There had to be an exchange of information between the two fundamentally different species. This exchange was (according to the thesis of Deutsch) simplified by the fact that both lived in a world with absolute principles of beauty. They did not have access to these principles, but they could (with variation & selection) develop in this direction. Man also lives in this world. Humans have also evolved to be able to better perceive absolute (= perfect) beauty. Why? Because information exchange between two people is similar to information exchange between different species (the non-innate information in the human brain is more than in any animal genome, so two people are as different as two different species).  

That is why we humans also perceive flowers as beautiful. We cannot recognize absolute beauty perfectly, but we can still make some statements about beauty: It is only in the eye of the beholder insofar as a photographer or an architect can judge it better and more objectively than someone who has not dealt with it that much . 

I assume that these conclusions can be extended to other areas of aesthetics. When it comes to moves and dancing, people probably even had one certain selective advantage if they could move 'more beautifully', as people who could not move so nicely. So it is quite conceivable that the movements of people have not only functionally improved over generations, but have also 'embellished'. 

How do you know what is absolutely beautiful?

One knows it just as little as one can speak of 'absolute truths' in science when it comes to the laws of nature. Just as scientists try to figure out the laws of physics (with better and better explanations and mathematical equations), scientists and artists in the fields of aesthetics try to discover ever better criteria of beauty and to create even more beautiful works of art . The golden section, or symmetry in general, are examples of such attempts at explanation in aesthetics. 

However, there is still more than enough need for discussion among experts, because they are still far (infinitely far) from the knowledge of absolute beauty. These discussions and the creation of new art will bring us more and more insights.

Why shouldn't we care less about the beauty of dance?

Unlimited progress is only possible when we move in the direction of absolute beauty in dance. This absolute beauty is unattainable and always will be unattainable, but we can try to get creative and move towards it. Perhaps this development is even relevant for expressionist dancers: With a more defined repertoire of aesthetic and unaesthetic movements, they could probably express themselves better and better.

For me, the dance part of Forró is a kind of social expression dance. That's why I'm against competitions or exams in Forró. Still, I don't think there's much to be said against discovering the beauty of dance moves. In any case, the awareness of the beauty of dance is more beneficial than detrimental to the ability to express oneself when dancing.

What do you think about that? I look forward to your opinion in the comments! 🙂

 

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