The Language of Dance

Dance Wars


The Mungovian ambassador to Wasidia has come in for criticism after apologising for his country's historical role in the colonisation of the tiny island state. Mungovia invaded Wasidia in 1882 and occupied the island for almost sixty years, before finally granting it independence in 1940. Many people feel that the official apology has come a little late, but what is really making Wasidians so angry is that the ambassador chose to deliver it through the medium of dance.

"Dance is very important in Mungovia," said the Ambassador. "It is a very solemn and stately activity, and a traditional way of showing respect and honouring nobility."

The Ambassador's 'solemn and stately' apology took the form of a three minute video message in which he danced to 'YMCA' by The Village People, with all the actions and in full costume (he was the motorcycle cop). Not surprisingly, the people of Wasidia have judged the apology to be less than sincere and, during a recent session of the United Nations, Wasidia's permanent representative responded by doing the Macarena, while the foreign minister accompanied her on a kazoo.

There have been suggestions of Mungovia retaliating with the chicken dance and in Wasidia they are openly talking about flossing in the streets. There are genuine fears that the situation could rapidly escalate to the point where one side goes nuclear - Gangnam Style - and nobody wants to see that.

Plans are currently being drawn up for a UN Peacekeeping Dance Troupe to be parachuted into the region and there will be harsh penalties for anyone caught moving in an even remotely rhythmic way.


Just how effective is dance as a form of communication?

We asked professional dancing person, Judith Twirl

UBO: Hello professional dancing person, Judith Twirl. Please tell us, how effective is dance as a form of communication?

JUDITH: Hello interviewer person. Well of course dance is the most intimate and personal form of self-expression and we all have an innate understanding of movement and form. Thus, when I do this...

At this point Judith gracefully lifts her arms into the air while slowly sliding the top of her foot up her calf, then suddenly and dramatically droops and finishes in a low bow.

JUDITH: ... You instantly know what I'm trying to convey

UBO: Yes, you've got an itch.

JUDITH: No, it means I'm sad.

UBO: Yes. You're sad because you've got an itchy leg.

JUDITH: No, I'm just sad. This is the power of dance. At the heart of each performance there is truth. It's a form of communication that bypasses mere words and instead reaches for something deeper?

UBO: Okay then, let's say that I was in my local newsagents. How would I use dance to tell the person behind the counter that I wanted a Mars bar?

JUDITH: Well it's not really about that kind of communication. It's more about the fundamental thoughts and feelings that drive deeply at what it is to be human.

UBO: I think wanting a Mars bar is highly suggestive of what it is to be human. Some come on, how would I say 'Give me a Mars bar'?

JUDITH: Well, how about...

Judith places her hands on her stomach, sidesteps to the left, spins around and finishes with jazz hands.

JUDITH: I think that would do it.

UBO: On the contrary - I think that would get me thrown out. That doesn't so much say 'Give me a Mars bar' as 'I'm a dangerous lunatic who has just escaped from a secure institution, call the police immediately and tell them to bring a big net'.

JUDITH: Ok, well, I think what you need to understand is that the language of dance is about broad strokes rather than detail.

UBO: Broad strokes? You're talking about painting now?

JUDITH: No, it was a metaphor. You see -

UBO: Hang on - metaphor. That's quite a complex linguistic concept. How would you use dance to convey a metaphor?

JUDITH: Well now, in many ways, all dance is metaphorical.

UBO: So it's just the purely literal that you struggle with?

JUDITH: No! No! No!

At this point Judith repeatedly beat her fist into the palm of her hand, from which I was able to deduce that she was conveying anger and frustration.

JUDITH: Your problem is that you are dance-illiterate.

UBO: No, 'illiterate' can't be the right word. If 'innumerate' is numbers, what's dance?

JUDITH: No matter how hard we try, there are always philistines like you who refuse to open your minds to wider forms of artistic expression.

UBO: 'Terpsichorean' - that relates to dance, doesn't it? So the word would be 'interpsichorate', I guess.

JUDITH: Whatever.

Without warning, Judith lunges at me, slaps me several times about the face, knees me in the groin and then waltzes off. From this performance I conclude the our interview is at an end and, as I tenderly clutch my aching plums, I can't help but reflect that, in the final analysis, she did indeed manage to drive deeply and quite forcefully at what it is to be human. Ouch.


The Language of Dance: An Introduction

A handy guide to some common expressions you can use in everyday life.



"Hello, could you please tell me the way to the train station? Thank you."



"I would like to return this deluxe four-slot electric toaster. It is faulty."



"Would you kindly instruct your dog to stop widdling on my foot?"



"I am most awfully and terribly sorry that my country invaded your country in 1882."

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