Life is Dancing
By Lou Pechi
We just returned from a 22-day trip in Turkey led by Bora Özkök. While visiting Amasya I was fascinated by the saying of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, inscribed on a small plaque in the Museum of Music. The Museum is located in a former 12th century Seljuk Lunatic Asylum.
What is more remarkable is that while in Europe they were chaining and incarcerating insane people in cages, the Seljuks actually tried to cure them by playing calming music. I can see the patients lying on soft cushions as they listened to the sounds of the ancient "ouds," "zurnas," and "dumbeks" playing exotic music. It must have really calmed them.
I kept thinking that rather than have them lie passively on the soft couches, they could have gotten better results if they made them dance to the music. I can see all these insane people in line, holding hands and keeping their minds occupied as they try to follow the various intricate folkdance steps.
I can see them having personal folk dance therapy with one to one teachers, or group folkdance therapy, with one teacher directing a larger group of patients.
Maybe they also had padded cells for the totally uncoordinated dancers. That way they could not hurt themselves nor any other dancers.
During asylum open house, they could put on dance performances showing both their mental and folkdance progress.
Keeping them busy learning new dances, would occupy their minds and they would not have to think about the demons rummaging in their heads.
Why do I think folkdance therapy works?
Because I have personal proof that folk dancing is good for depression, low feelings, boredom, mental distress, and anything that mentally ails you. To comply with the required medical warning for any prescription, I also have to mention all the usual side effects that folk dancing can cause. You might experience slight dizziness, especially in fast turns, have muscle aches, develop bunions, and most of all develop bad knees. But, believe me, it is worth it.
Many times, when I was depressed or worried about work issues, my wife would convince me to go folk dancing. Or sometimes it was the other way around, and I would get her to come. The first dances were usually done with great difficulty, but as the evening progressed the worries melted away and both of us would feel light and happy. We went home in high spirits, happy that we forced ourselves to go dancing.
So, when you are feeling low, get out and join us. Don't wait until they commit you to the folkdance asylum.
And another thing: I think that Ataturk's saying would be more appropriate as:
Dancing is not necessary for life. Because life is dancing.
As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (46)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.