Can dance save the world?

A group of young Chinese children attend a dance class during their summer holidays in Hefei, eastern China's Anhui province (File: AAP)

There are plenty of ways to resolve conflict with varying degrees of success. Courts, conciliation, arbitration, aggression, war or we could dance.

It’s not a trivial notion. Dancing In Jaffa is an award-winning documentary travelling around the globe. Palestinian and Israeli children are brought together for the first time to learn some fancy ballroom dance steps and compete with kindness.

Is this a glimmer of hope for a way to end conflict in Gaza in the future?

It’s a big call bit it’s also inspiring to explore the possibility that new generations of generational conflict could dance towards a peaceful resolution.

On face value, dancing itself is not the solution to world conflict. But it does develop qualities of empathy and the aptitude to work with others in a harmonious way.

There’s the etiquette of the meet-and-greet, how to invite someone to dance and how to accept an offer. It requires discipline to learn the steps and patience with others learning them too. Then there’s the joy of ‘busting’ some moves together for which everyone shares credit.

It sounds better than going to war under the oxy moronic flag of ‘fighting for peace’.

“People dance because dance can change things. One move can bring people together. One move can make you believe like there's something more. One move can set a whole generation free.” ― Adam G. Sevani, 22- year-old Armenian- Italian dancer

Verbal language is an outstanding human skill but it’s our non-verbal communication that cuts through language barriers and transcends borders. One of the most common is the smile. Another is expression through movement.

In the documentary, Pierre Dulaine is the teacher who left his not-for-profit New York dance school to return to his hometown of Jaffa to see if he could help build respect and bridge the gap between Palestinian and Israeli children. It started badly with some of them spitting at each other, covering their hands with their sleeves so their skin didn’t touch their partner’s and fear of what parents would say about dancing with the enemy.

But in order to dance, people must work together and move forward. Fighting the same way over the same issues with no end result is not moving forward. It’s stagnation.

The bible has a story of the political power of dance. When Salome did the [purported] Dance Of The Seven Veils for King Herod, he was so impressed he offered her anything she wanted – even a big chunk of prime ancient real estate. But her mother advised her to ask for the head of John the Baptist. She got it.

The world has tried to resolve conflict with bullets, bombs, economic sanctions and wars. This sometimes eases trouble but does not necessarily solve problems. Are we so locked into the single-minded notion of ‘might means right’ that we cannot even consider any other possible paths to peace?

Breakdance is hailed as a tool of conflict resolution. In a post about hip hop and teenage brains, Tim Webb, education and training coordinator for Mental Health America of Colorado (MHAC) said people in the program ‘learn that breakdancing was created as means to oppose conflict among gangs.’

Since 2006, several events organized by peace activists under the banner of Hip Hop ‘Sulha’ (reconciliation) bring Palestinian, Muslim and Israeli rappers together to promote understanding and explore peaceful co-existence.

The ‘dance’ metaphor works in terms of how to manage conflict. People step on each other’s toes. It hurts. We say sorry, get better at moving in sync with others and do it by taking one step at a time.

Dance has the power to change things because it’s not static - we have to change our position.

Maybe more political movers and shakers should be doing the Harlem Shake.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch