Re: Drill, Dancin', Marchin' <debate>

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 10:54:25 -0500

On Thu, 15 Feb 1996, John McCreery wrote:

> drill=military=hierarchical, oppressive, coercive=something
> detestable vs.
> dance=civilian=egalitarian, free, spontaneous=something
> desirable
> underlying the first spontaneous reactions we've heard. These
> have been countered by ethnographic examples, chiefly the
> Hopi, in which something apprently recognized as dance by
> those most directly concerned is neither free nor spontaneous.
> But other examples are easy to come by, Asian dance is full of
> forms that are rigidly specified, taught and practiced
> hierarchically organized groups, in which felt spontaneity is
> rooted in repetitive practice until the form is so thoroughly
> internalized that the dancer doesn't have to stop and think --
> precisely the sort of outcome aimed at by military drill (plus, of
> course, a vast array of martial arts).

I appreciate John's astuteness in depeicting the political polarities
that have appeared in this dance-drill debate, and I thank him for the
reminders that much of dance, particularly in Asia, is pretty much
"drill". Even belly dancing, at least as practiced by some professional
Middle Eastern women, has required a great deal of training, practice,
and needless to say, muscular control, which hardly detracts (IMHO)
from its beauty and sensualism.
I 've "drilled" and "danced", and incidentally, you might also talk about
music at some point here, because there is a lot in there that melds
training and "freedom (i.e., drill and expression), and as a trombonist
and trumpeter with regard to classical music and classical jazz, lucky is
the one who has both (I don't, and I'm not a professional, but I love the
What has been missing from these discussions is something that is a
constant and universal, and that is none of this occurs in a neurological
vacuum. Both dance and drill involve (and music too) involve a
tremendous amount of participation of the striatal complex and the
cerebellum, the latter in particular mediating proprioception. What is
missed in these discussions is the realization that there is a variable
amount of feedback from these structures and the cerebral cortex through
the hypothalamus and the limbic system. Highly repetitive acts can become
*addictive* and *enjoyable* and there is also the matter of *vicarious*
experience in which one can internalize the emotional power of someone
else's actions by internally mimicking and copying these sequences. So
too, I am convinced, can sheer cognitive activity, such as solving a
mathematical puzzle or problem, or finishing a dissertation or erecting
some hugh conceptual artefact, or even making a splendid stone tool hand
axe, all these have two-way connections with outr emotional centers.
In this regard, people are highly variable, as we have certainly
discovered as teachers. So for some, the actual engagements of their
nervous systems may or may not have some actual enjoyable dimension
as when participating in "drill" or "dance". What I'm really suggesting
here is that NO, NO, these are not polarities, they are a continuum of
Ralph Holloway