Book Review – Dancing in the Streets – Barbara Ehrenreich


I don’t dance.

It just feels strange to get up and let my body move with music. When I really stop and listen to the music I’m dancing too it feels even stranger. Most popular music is narcissistic at best, much of it bordering on downright violence, cruelty and misogyny, why would anyone want to dance to that? This might sound odd coming from a guy who spent nineteen years in the music business but I really don’t like popular music, never have. So I very rarely dance.

I do like philosophy though and this book is less about dancing and more about philosophy than anything else.

Ehrenreich delves deep into history to uncover the origins of communal revelry. Joy, when expressed collectively often results in dance. I’ve seen it happen. In 1992 the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series and people all across Canada were literally dancing in the streets. It was the first time any team outside of the United States had taken home baseball’s most coveted prize. Unlike any other team, the Blue Jays had the support of an entire country and the victory was shared from coast to coast. I happened to be in Saskatoon that night, over 2000 miles from downtown Toronto but it didn’t matter, “we” had won and the party was incredible. There was no music but we were still, quite literally dancing in the streets.


In her book Ehrenreich uses dance as a euphemism for joy and dancing in the streets as a euphemism for collective joy.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was Ehrenreich’s assertion that early and medieval Christianity was a danced religion. Sunday Mass, religious ceremony, festivals and carnivals of all kinds stemmed from the collective joy early Christ-followers found in the promise of salvation. Modern Christianity has allowed ritual and piety to overtake joy and we have lost much of the visceral emotion that should accompany the promises and revelation of God in our midst. We have lost these things to our detriment and our shame.

Dance has become synonymous with debauchery and narcissism when it should really be associated with joy and community. One thing is for sure, if that were the case Church we be a whole lot more fun and I for one would be happy to dance more.



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