“Heard melodies are sweet,
but those unheard are sweeter.”
Recently, I saw this quote from Ode to a Grecian Urn tattooed on a girl’s back shoulder. I am glad there was a huge treble clef attached to it, which drew my attention to the words.
So many memories of English Literature class, and falling in love with Romantic poets were brought back to me in that moment. And Professor Lee Johnson, my favorite professor, who instilled such a passion for poetry and words in me, even though I was actually in sciences at that time.
Those words meant something in particular to me at that time, according to what was going on in my life then. I wasn’t dancing, and I definitely wasn’t singing when I first read those poets and Keats’ ode. But I understood and got a taste of those “unheard melodies” in the form of pauses and breaths in the middle of certain sentences or poetry lines. Writing and reading took on this whole other sensation for me because of this. So did fine art, as I would notice not just the strokes and colours on the canvases I painted or drew on, but also the negative space within those creations. I could see the beauty of the “unheard” melodies in the artwork I studied in art history classes as well. To me, they were the spots that the artist chose to purposely leave blank. The blank spaces often said as much, if not more, than the ones full of swirling brushstrokes.
It’s amazing how now, the words take on another layer because of these newer passions of mine, especially dance.
Because it is the breaths and pauses in dancing and singing that I live for the most in these disciplines. Very often, we concentrate on the hits, the strong beats, the parts in the music where your feet want to step the loudest or strongest. But when someone breathes with me at the beginning of a dance, or when suddenly, there is a pause in the music, and we stop together to take in that moment, that’s what makes the hits and sharper, quicker movements so memorable.
It’s also what gives me goosebumps- those “unheard” melodies in between the musical notes, in between the dips and spins and waves. I can name particular dancers over the course of my dancing experience who have made me feel those moments, those pauses, between the pulses and traveling sequences. It is the leaders who have stopped me in my tracks to be so present in those moments, to experience the sweetness of what is not heard but felt so deeply, that remain in my memory forever. Although those moments can never be replicated again exactly as they were, that is also what is beautiful about them. They linger within us, long after they happen, because of their magic to bring us into that very instance.
It’s like nothing else exists in those moments except for that feeling. And that is the part of dance that makes me crave more of it. These captured moments of ‘stillness’ that we often don’t take the time for in our daily lives, these instances of total surrender to our senses- the feel of our partner’s hands or arms around us, the touch of our feet pushing through the floor, or the floor pushing back up into us to ground us and keep the motion flowing, or the deep breaths taken at the same time as the pause in the music.
It is this that draws me to the dance floor again and again, no matter how tired I might feel beforehand, no matter how many other life issues are on my mind. Dance takes me out of this and into the moment. It feels like something otherworldly, orchestrated not by us but by something divine. Or to remind us of our connection to Spirit and the Divine. We just have to be open to it, to allow ourselves to listen and believe in the “unheard” melodies that capture our hearts and let our souls soar. It is the pauses and the breaths in the dances that enliven me and convince me that we are connected to something so much greater than ourselves. We just have to let that connection flow to and from us.
Dance allows us to hear the unheard, to experience something out of this world while still remaining in it.
Dance is divine.