Fighting Violence, Terror and Hate with Art, Joy and Youth

Boston Common, November 2015

This short essay was originally published in early December of 2015. I’ve updated it slightly to speak as well to the horrors that have popped up for all of us here in 2016.

We’ve all been wondering how to counteract the lunacy and mayhem that seems to seriously marked 2015 throughout the world — and now the spring and summer and fall of 2016. Right? It’s not just out-of-control cops, terrorists, asshole politicians, and the mentally ill. There’s a lot of hatred a certain category of people have been spewing on TV, social media, and, probably, in your neighborhood and workplace.

You may have your own answer, but to me the most powerful weapon global society has against all this fear and negativity is the freedom and joy of young people and the art they are making. Watch the video below:

The Community of Dancers is my youngest son Conor’s project. He is a 21-year-old film student (and hip-hop dancer) at Emerson College in Boston. His vision is that the Community of Dancer’s can create a network of local urban dancers across North America with videos highlighting both professional and amateur performers in outdoor urban environments, grooving to the best music he can find — in this case GRiZ’s “Good Times Roll.”

Why is this a way to combat violence and terror? Because dance is the most profound expression of fearless human joy and freedom that we have. When you really cut loose — or you watch others do that — you feel the power of being truly human in the wash of time we all too often take for granted. Sometimes when we talk about the arts we forget dance. We talk about painting, music, comedy, and literature. Sometimes we remember to throw in film and sculpture and theater. But dance gets left out. That’s a mistake.

I’ve thought a lot about what’s being shown to us in Conor’s Community of Dancers video over the last year and a half. I’ve thought as well about all the other dance videos found on YouTube. I have several friends who have been professional dancers — one is even a professor of dance. We all know how deep this art form goes and how moving it can be. Heck, who doesn’t love to dance?

Talented and committed dancers express what is in all of us (even if we’re unable to do the amazing things these great athletic artists do). And that thing — that center of freedom, joy, beauty, love, and soul — I think, is what some people are trying to stop (to actually kill) when they commit acts of extreme violence, or when they simply express their hatred and fear about others. How dare anyone feel life’s beauty; how dare anyone try to express what they feel so directly!

Don’t let that hatred and fear get to you. Remember that all good art is capable of defeating human ugliness. Dance in particular is art’s biggest muscle — from hip-hop to ballroom to ballet.

I like to think when I watch dancers so much more accomplished and talented than us common-bodied types that they know somewhere deep inside they aren’t just dancing for themselves, they’re dancing for all of us.

Here’s the link again: Community of Dancers Boston Edition. Thank you Conor Biddle and all the dancers you continue to highlight in your work. I get what you meant when you named your company DEFY Video. Thanks to your whole crew and, again, all the dancers showing the world how to live.