"Say, what shall we dance? Shall we bound along the moonlight plain To music of Italy, Greece, or Spain? Say, what shall we dance? Shall we, like those who rove Through bright Granada's grove, To the light Bolero's measures move? Or choose the Guaracia's languishing lay, And thus to its sound die away?
"Strike the gay chords, Let us hear each strain from every shore That music haunts, or young feet wander o'er. Then comes the smooth waltz, to whose floating sound Like dreams we go gliding around, Say, which shall we dance? which shall we dance?"
- Thomas Moore
In a study of the psychology of life we are often confronted by little or great movements that spring up almost in a night, swaying, at times, only the body of people or the nation that inaugurated them, and again exerting a world-wide influence. The student of history will find any number of such movements. As a general thing they have small beginnings, but, like the small snowball started rolling down hill, they soon accumulate greater weight and body, and, after a time, assume huge proportions. Reaching their climax, they usually begin to diminish, and then seem gradually to pass away, but this is seldom, if ever, the case. There is always something left behind that may eventually flame into being and repeat itself again. These periodic waves of movements assume many and varied forms; sometimes it may be a financial wave such as the South Sea Bubble. Finance is periodically subject to its years of receding and its years of flood tides, which, whether we know it or not, are states of consciousness. Again, we have such movements as the tulip craze which started in Holland and extended to many other countries, where people squandered fortunes in purchasing rare varieties of tulips. The craze passed away, but left its impression behind, for Holland still produces the greatest number and variety of tulips. In our own country we have had the business card collecting craze, which began first with a comparatively few people at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, and was later followed by a wave that swept over the whole country. There followed later the 14-15 puzzle. I use the foregoing examples only as an illustration to show that the contagion comes from a few people who are actively engaged in something a little out of the usual order, and that coming from it there is literally a hypnotic suggestion to which the receptive or negative minded are the first to respond, and later the stronger or the more positive minds become more or less influenced. Now, it is natural that this should be so. If we consider humanity as a whole, and the individual units as forming parts of the grand body, then that which affects the parts must eventually come to affect the whole. If the original impulse is a very strong one, then the whole body is affected in a very complete way, but if the first impulse has not some good reason for its existence, or is incomplete or partial, while it may affect the receptive or negative minded, it is quite unlikely that it will affect in any marked way the strong or positive minded portion of the community, the nation, or the world. The foregoing statement is apropos of a movement that had its beginning in our own country. I am referring to the modern dance.
Until quite recently the United States would hardly have been called a country that was given, as a whole, to dancing; but the last few years have brought about a wonderful change, and I doubt if, at the present time, there is any other country wherein there is as much dancing going on as in our own. Now there must be some good reason for this very radical change, and I think such a reason will be found in the fact that for many years we, as a people, have been lacking in all true rhythmic expression. We have expressed ourselves in many ways and degrees, but not in a rhythmic way, not in a way that has disclosed much of either grace or beauty, and the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction. And I believe that from this on there will be an ever-increasing effort on the part of a large body of our people to give expression to life in a more beautiful and graceful way, and that this beauty and grace will not be confined solely to the dance, but will enter into practically everything that they do in life. We have not yet grasped the full import of this new movement, for while the dance is probably as old as human life on the planet, yet it is new to countless thousands who have previously cared little if anything for it, and it is new in the sense of its taking such a hold on the imagination and exerting an apparently compelling influence upon so many minds. I do not think that it will be as ephemeral as so many other movements we have passed through. While undoubtedly it will reach its climax and possibly decrease in a large measure, nevertheless it will not only continue to have a greater following than it has had in the past, but it will become a permanent influence for good in many other ways than simply the pleasure or joy one receives from the dancing alone.
As a people we have been so wrapped up in material advancement that we have had little time to do other than cultivate the mind toward business interests; consequently, we derive little if any satisfaction out of the many things which the more artistic and beauty-loving nations of the earth find both pleasure and profit in. However, when once started, we take hold of everything not only in a more vigorous, but in a more rapid way, and possibly in a shorter time than most people, we become highly proficient in many things in which at one time we were deficient. In some directions we have been making more wonderful progress than any other nation on the face of the earth. In material accumulations we are outstripping all the nations of the earth. The Panama Canal, our enormous system of railroads, and our labor-saving devices show us in certain departments to be ahead or fully abreast of the greatest nations of the earth.