Published: July 2006

Dance Across America

Couples Jumping

Shall We Dance?

From ballet to break-dance, from the hora to hip-hop, this country stays moving on the dance floor.

By Cathy Newman
National Geographic Senior Writer
Photograph by Brian Lanker

From the first kick of a baby's foot to the last "Anniversary Waltz," we danceā€”to internal rhythms and external sounds. Before the written word, humans spoke the language of dance. It's as ancient as the 3,400-year-old image of a man with a lute, dancing on a clay plaque discovered in northern Israel.

We dance, not just with our bodies, but from the heart. "Dance is bodies sounding off," says Judith Lynne Hanna, an anthropologist at the University of Maryland. We pour out love and hate, joy and sorrow; appeal to the spirits, gods, and nature; flirt, seduce, court; celebrate birth, death, and everything in between. We even presume to reorder the world, as if, in the Shaker song, by "turning, turning we come round right." Dance is so profane, some religions ban it; so sacred, others claim it.

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