What makes you human?

It all started on 16 September 2013. I took a tentative first step and was instantly hooked; besotted even. In the space of a couple of hours, my life was transformed, flooded with joy and laughter – and my poor, long-suffering friends have had to put up with me going on about it ever since.

I had discovered dance.

Specifically, I had discovered Ceroc, a mix of modern jive, salsa and lots of other kinds of partner-dancing. I’ve learned and participated in several other forms of dance before, from ceilidhs to line dancing and Filipino bamboo dancing to Jewish dance, and have enjoyed it all, but Ceroc has been by far the most fun – and perhaps the best exercise!

In the seven months since that first, nervous foray I have made new friends, learned new skills, lost some old weight, and laughed a lot. What’s not to love?

Vince Cable, writing for the New Statesman’s series in conjunction with Radio 2 this week, goes a step further: a love of dance, he says, is what makes him human. “On the dance floor,” he explains, “age, colour, nationality, status and education are of no consequence, only a shared ability to respond to the rhythms of music.”

Is dancing a purely human instinct? I don’t know. Bees perform a complex ‘dance’ to communicate the location of food. Birds often appear to be flying in a playful yet co-ordinated manner that perhaps owes more to pleasure than efficiency, and I’m sure those with more than my tiny grasp of the natural world can give more examples of birds, beasts and bugs performing dance-type movements. Perhaps moving your body in time to music isn’t a solely human pursuit after all.

Yet if to be human is to be ‘in the image’ of God, then dancing, though it may tell us little about ourselves, must tell us something about our creator.

He is a God who, contrary to many people’s belief, enjoys pleasure. He enjoys self-expression. He enjoys community (dancing – although it can be done alone, is much better in a group), and he enjoys the different roles that different members of the group take on. In order to make the whole thing work – for each person moving forwards, there needs to be an equal and opposite person willing to move backwards, or you end up with a lot of bruised toes. In Ceroc in particular, each couple comprises a leader and a follower and, as the teacher of my class often points out, each is equally important.

You may have been born with a tin ear, two left feet, and no sense of rhythm. If that’s you, don’t worry; contra Vince Cable, dancing isn’t what makes you human, or even what makes you valuable to a God who created dance, created music and delights in those who worship him with these talents.

What makes you human is that you are created in God’s image, and nothing can add to or detract from that essential truth. Your abilities, aptitudes and attitudes don’t change it. Your tastes, temperament and theological stance don’t affect it. In Vince Cable’s words, “age, colour, nationality, status and education are of no consequence”. You are the pinnacle of God’s creation from the moment your DNA fused and formed that unmistakeable homo sapiens pattern, and you will remain so until the last breath leaves your body.

And that’s worth dancing about, surely?



This post originally appeared on Friday Night Theology.

2 Comments On This Topic
  1. Anthony Keith Charnley
    on Jun 25th at 2:38 pm

    Dear Jennie, as a long time appreciator of your blog, I thought it was time I participated rather than just received. What has exercised me enough to post a response is the question of dance, My wife and started ballroom dancing some 13 years ago. Chris always wanted to learn to waltz. One Christmas our elder son tried to get us both dancing lessons, but failed. I took up the challenge after the festive season and we joined a group who like us were starting from scratch. The rest is history as they say. We can waltz (at last that one ticked off) but also cha cha cha, rumba, quickstep, foxtrot, jive….and loads of sequence dances.
    It is a most wonderful past time. Furthermore dancing with my wife is very special, a way of expressing love for each other. We dance every Wednesday evening and have made friends amongst fellow devotees. We no longer take lessons but just dance. We do learn new sequence dances from YouTube clips and the help of others who attend the weekly dance.
    The room of a dance night is redolent with joy, laughter and thankfulness. Sacred dance is very much part of the Christian tradition and while I would not claim that accolade, the way our bodies blend and move together (at times….not always…we make mistakes….and annoy each other….) is very moving and I feel His pleasure.
    So yes dance is very much part of being human and worship to our God. I commend it.
    Keep dancing….. Keith Charnley ( Anglican Priest)

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Jun 25th at 2:43 pm

      Thanks for joining in, Keith! I love that about feeling His pleasure in those moments when it all comes together. It really is transcendent, isn’t it? I’m looking forward to my Ceroc class opening up again – at last!


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