image by Yohann Legrand
I have numerous music projects including this singer-songwriter Jason Bennett Americana/Indie Folk solo project. One of them is my polka band called The Route 161 Happy Wanderers.
My polka band is hyper busy about seven weekends a year traveling to various Oktoberfests. Most Oktoberfests are family friendly so many children are present. One of my favorite things to see is when the music starts, young children start dancing. Intriguing to me is not that they’re dancing but it’s their instinct to dance. I can see in their faces, when they’re toddlers, they don’t even realize they are dancing; it just happens automatically; they just start moving.
So, it got me thinking about the instinct to dance. I contemplated why our brains and bodies ache to move when there is any kind of beat. My theory begins with the obvious fact that music has rhythms. But, nature also has rhythms. One easy example is the predictable changing of the seasons. Early humans had to be in tune with natural rhythms to survive and pass on their DNA.
Another such natural rhythm exists within the relationship between children and their parents. A modern child doesn’t have to worry about getting eaten by a predator if he or she can’t keep up with parents’ rhythms. But early humans likely needed that instinct.
It makes sense to me that early humans, just as modern humans, desired control over whatever natural rhythms they could conquer. I believe this desire to control helped lead to the invention of music. With music we have control over strict rhythms.
Because of the survival need to be in sync with natural rhythms as part of our DNA, we also have an instinct to move with rhythms we as humans create. This is my working theory as to why pre-socially inhibited staged children move to music without even knowing they’re doing it. I admit it’s possible this theory is totally wrong and little ones move to music because they see and copy others. This aping of others is also a hereditary survival learning skill.
Regardless, I love watching a wee one mindlessly moving to the music; I love watching toddlers and pre-Ks wearing it out while laughing and having a blast; I love watching kids who’ve learned a few moves impress their friends; I love watching adults do the steps they’ve grooved through years of repetition; and, I love watching the elderly clap along (and many still dancing along).
Your instinct to dance, smile, clap and sing along makes being the guy up there playing worth so much more than you can imagine.
Thanks for being there.
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