Dance is Unusual Form of Storytelling (For Me)


Big Stock Photo

Big Stock Photo

Some of you would say, “Of course, dance is a form of storytelling. There’s nothing unusual about that.”

I sort of knew this before. After all, I’ve known the Hawaiian hula dance tells a story. And ballet tells a story. (I’m familiar with the story, The Nutcracker, and I’m familiar with the music. But–confession–I’ve never seen the ballet.)

Dance as a type of storytelling only sunk in for me recently. Maybe because I don’t understand dance. I thought it was mostly emotional expression. I’m sure some of it is. But some forms of dance are so much more.

My epiphany came from listening to author Jane Heitman Healy tell me about a presentation by Lakota/Anishinabe hoop dancer Kevin Locke at the recent South Dakota Festival of Books. Jane also wrote about his stories, music, and hoop dance at her blog, Read, Learn, and be Happy. His dance might not be a literal story, but it is full of symbolism and meaning. Because he explained/translated the symbolism, viewers can understand the “story” he’s telling.

Now if I just had a translator for other dances…

For more info about Kevin Locke, see his website.

What form of storytelling has surprised you? What other kinds of dance tell stories?


  1. Jane Heitman Healy

    Thanks for the link, Debbie. I’m glad my post inspired you. I think stories are all around us–in dance, art, music, nature, science, history–you name it! If teachers approached content areas with story, they may be better able to hook their students.

    • Deb Watley

      That’s one reason I’ve always liked history–I’ve always connected it with stories. It’s funny you mentioned sports. I don’t enjoy watching sports until I care about the participants. Just like readers don’t connect with a story until they care about, or at least connect somehow, with the characters. That’s probably why there are so many interviews and profiles of the athletes during the Olympics. It’s hard to cheer for someone until we know their story.

  2. Pingback: Native Americans’ Day in South Dakota | Deb Watley

Leave a Reply