Dancing Gods

This week we continue our three-week investigation into non-rational pathways that bring humans closer to their gods. Last week we looked at images and colors. This week lets look at how some cultures use dancing to make connections with other worlds.

In our reading this week, we focus on the Yoruba religion that originated in Western Africa (across large swaths of Nigeria and Benin). In the essay, the author discusses many different orisa, the Yoruba word for gods. Traditionally, the most common way to summon the orisa was by ritualistic dancing. In the Yoruba religion, the universe is composed of both the spiritual and physical, and the Orisa live in both. Their symbols can be seen, their stories can be heard, their essence can be imagined, and their power can be felt. Orisa music and dance reflect cosmologies in various layers (p. 190).

While the author discusses race, gender, and politics, he also points out that Music and dance elevate our insights (p. 190). Particular dances are anchored to a set of clear beliefs (p. 190), that help us see the eternal forces in relation to unseen and seen forces (p. 191), affirm the rather expansive imaginations of organic intellectuals (p. 193), and open multiple windows to view the humanities and deconstruct knowledge (p. 207). What does this all mean? Why does the author believe that dancing can give some Yoruba followers elevated insight, or knowledge about themselves and the world? What kinds of knowledge are challenged, or deconstructed? What specific kinds of insight (in-sight) can dancing provide?

In ancient Hinduism, there are many gods who are known for their dancing: Shiva, Kali, Krishna, etc. In the Hindu cosmology it is Shivas dancing that gives birth our universe.

One of the most repeated dance scenes in ancient Hinduism, however, is between the god Krishna and his beloved Radha. When Krishna plays the flute people are immediately transported to a better, non-rational world. The music makes Radha (and everyone else) want to dance. Through dancing like Radha, many people still today catch glimpses of other worlds.

In Bollywood films (romantic musicals often filmed in Mumbai, India), the flirtatious dance between Krishna and Radha is often reinterpreted in modern contexts. Check out the videos from two 1999 Bollywood films:, Hum Saath Saath Hain (We are Together) and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Straight from the Heart). In the first song, the lyrics refer to Radha speaking to Krishnas mother about the gods attractive sensuality (you can find the lyrics here: (https://www.filmyquotes.com/songs/2006).

My anklets start to jingle

When he flirts with his eyes

I go crazy and simply hold my heart

In the second video, the classic Hindu garba dance refers to a time when Krishna plays the flute and the earth and sky will dance together (you can find the lyrics here: https://www.filmyquotes.com/songs/143).

Lets focus on the music, and of course, the dancing. (Keep in mind each video has over 40 million views!) Break down a specific scene. What kinds of knowledge may be discovered, expressed, and/or passed on through modern interpretations of traditional dances such as these? Have you ever put yourself into a different head space while dancing?