Re: Fascinatin' Rhythm [Debate]

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 13:23:23 -0500

In a message dated 96-02-11 22:08:54 EST, Warren.Sproule@SOCIOL.UTAS.EDU.AU
(Warren Sproule) writes:

>My alternative hunch is that 'Dance' and 'Drill' are NOT *complementary*,
>*contrary* processes. Any takers for a broader discussion on this

Warren: I'll speculate here. An essential function of drill is to control
fear by diluting it in feelings of massiveness, power, and coordination. Not
so for dance (war dancing excepted?). That there is a strong playful element
in dance seems undeniable to me. Generalizing once again, all drill is
designed to routinize, but also to subordinate to a command point. Some
dance forms subordinate in this way (square dances are "called"), but many do
not. There is in dance organization jointly produced, but no chain of

Some dances go through and beyond (?) focusing attention and effort to
produce trance states -- arguably a kind of dissociation or loss of focus (on
the"ordinary" world, at least). I have never heard of any military drill
designed to do this, but would be intrigued to hear about one if anyone else
has. (This goes along with my gut feeling that drill is designed to *limit*
or at least channelize thinking, while dance frees it -- but only after
mastery of the form elements [however minimal] has been achieved.)

I am inclined to think that dance is universal, while drill would seem
limited to larger-scale societies that defend territories.

Lynn Maners writes "I'm always intrigued by footage I see on CNN of political
movements (sic) in South Africa, where people seem to be jogging to a beat
while engaged in political activity. Is that dance and what does it imply for
broader social organization?"

An interesting question. This kind of activity seems to bring us close to
the intersection of dance and drill. But I wonder if the end of dance is
produce something beautiful or expressive, while the end of drill is produce
something effective.

I will say this, drill shorn of its military functions may well be considered
dance. Drum and bugle corps being a case in point.

Both dance and drill are visceral; both focus attention and effort. I don't
think Mc Neill can be denied on these points. Let me add one other piece.
There's already been speculation that hand gestures and signing preceded
verbal language in human evolution. The sort of "keeping together in time"
that McNeill writes about might well be seen as the making of the entire body
into a "hand" for gesturing and communicating. The community would
constitute "other hands" that resonate in unison or in a "call and response
pattern." How close to speech itself, which is coordinated resonation.

Hope I'm not dancing around the topic.

Mike Cahill