Positive self expression is a familiar concept to people of every origin, so there are recognizable expressions of positive emotions that span across cultures, song and dance being two of those forms. When voices are raised in song or bodies are seen moving in rhythm (or off rhythm) to a beat, it is natural for people’s minds to jump right to “celebration!” However, what are often times considered forms of joyous expression become expressions of passionate pain in dark times. The darkest time in American history was when slavery was practiced, so for slaves, singing was not an expression of joy as some assumed, it was an expression of sorrow. Frederick Douglass (1845/2005) addressed this very subject in his published work, Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave: “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears” (ch. 2). Song, something that is often times associated with high spirits, became a channel to express deep sadness brought about by a wicked institution. The dance performed by Apartheid protesters in South Africa was called the toyi-toyi, and it emphasized their passion as they moved through the streets (Michie 2018). Nelson Mandela (1994/2010) said that not until April 27, 1994, did “the black majority….go to the polls to elect their own leaders” (241). Life for blacks in South Africa during Apartheid was cruel and unfair, so protesters used passionate dance to express their pain and desire for change. Self expression in the forms of song and dance offers an opportunity to release unwanted feelings and make powerful statements.

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