France Schott-Billmann

The Need to Dance Publication date : January 1, 2001

Over the past few years, the joy of dancing seems to have been rediscovered in France. This can be seen in the revival of village dances, the craze for Oriental and African dancing, and the large number of rave parties. The appeal of dance is widespread and seems to arise from an anonymous mass movement. Whether they are traditional, transcultural or newly invented, the “new dances” are performed in housing projects, on the streets, in nightclubs — far from the universe of traditional dancing. What does the desire to dance hide? Are the dancers, as has been claimed, simply seeking sensations of freedom, exhilaration, festivity and, sometimes, transgression? Couldn’t the dance craze be interpreted as a manifestion of the appeal of trance-like states — an appeal which is especially powerful because it was for so long repressed in our western culture? France Schott-Billmann analyses the dance phenomenon and shows how all the various forms of nonprofessional dancing that are popular today are characterised by an energetic, omnipresent rhythm which offers the dancers a different relationship with their bodies and with themselves. Rather than being part of a counterculture aimed at expressing violence and social refusal, these dances tap into an archaic, primitive life force. The author goes on to ask if a culture can attempt to eradicate the desire for trance states, without harming itself.

France Schott-Billmann, a psychotherapist, is the president of the Société Française de Psychothérapie par la Danse and vice president of the Association Européenne de Danse-thérapie. She teaches at EPHE.