Steve Kotansky leading a line dance at GoldenFest. January 2013. Author at right.

Recently, I was listening to the first of a multi-segment biology podcast on FranceInter entitled “In Utero.” (Check it out if interested and you understand French: The scientist at Institut Curie in Paris (during the pandemic I walked past it regularly enroute to Place Contrescarpe or Marché Monge – it’s near Panthéon) explained how human embryo cells dance. Yes, dance. From the moment of their formation. The reporter, riveted to the microscope where the drama unfolded, viewed the process with great fascination and many questions. I was right there with her, equally mesmerized by the description and appreciative of her many questions.

Apparently, cells that dance most energetically survive and thrive. The enthusiastically dancing cells become us, our bodies, and the lazy ones become our placentas, tissue discarded after its short, admittedly useful life. The rate of acceleration at which the vibrational ‘dancing’ occurs represents a mathematical ratio (an amazing fact). When the cell achieves a certain high frequency, some cells just give up and resign themselves to their dismal, placenta fate.

Why? We do not know. Might they be stimulated by similar forces? A kind of music or joy? One more biological mystery to solve, along with the fact that the cells that comprise our faces migrate at an early stage from our backs/spines, which formed first. This is a visible process in many species, which makes it a law of—at least mammalian—cellular development. Why migration? Why from the back? Does this process every go awry?

But, back to dancing. Listening to the scientist eagerly share his enthusiasm with an amazed and inquisitive reporter spurred further ruminations. I wondered if this dancing process might reveal larger, universal laws (because similar processes have been observed in a wide variety of classes of life forms) applicable to the spiritual/psychological as well as to the physical realm. After all, everything—whether we recognize and acknowledge it or not—is interdependent, a state of affairs that humans, who strangely feel the need to imagine themselves a superior species with godlike powers of reasoning and control over nature, have apparent difficulty embracing. I’m mystified by childlike insistence on human superiority despite all evidence to the contrary and have often thought that this subconscious awareness of human limitations and frailty fuels the fear that we are not the masters of our fates to the degree that we’d like to believe as well as the aggressive and deplorable struggle for control of resources, both animate and inanimate.

The cell-dancing revelation spurred thoughts about the lessons this knowledge might impart. Agility and endurance are crucial survival skills, both physically (to insure safety) and psychologically (to be happy/successful). What does it mean that high vibrating cells (and their clone descendants)—those cells in constant, regular, and energetic motion—enjoy a long life with numerous and varied experiences ahead of them while the lazy/relaxed/passive cells have a dramatically curtailed and humdrum existence?

I thought about what inspires humans to dance and what controls the dynamism of their movement. Mainly music and joy, no? Might some kind of music and joy motivate cells as well? If so, where does it originate? Is it innate, inspired by environmental conditions, a combination of both, or something else altogether? If you watch animals, their instinct to feel good (secure and positively stimulated), is a prime motivating factor for their actions. Were I a cat, I’d want to feel safe rolling onto my back, legs spread in all directions, to invite willing humans to caress my stomach.

The Curie researcher demonstrated that the cellular urge to dance is intimately connected to the foundational life force. Who/what isn’t happy when dancing of their own volition, especially when the feeling of joy and connectedness to one’s fellow dancers who share the experience and to the music that motivates movement releases oxytocin, the ‘happy’ chemical? If Vladimir Putin danced, would there be war in Ukraine?

I couldn’t help thinking about people I know and how those laws regarding activity versus passivity might apply both physically and metaphorically. Being fully engaged with one’s environment, permitting salubrious good vibrations to animate one’s being while does seem to lead to success, happiness, health, and longevity as long as one pursues the course of action directed by one’s inner voice in concert with those conditions. After all, you can’t reach a destination if you don’t have one. And you need to move to get to it; the faster you move, the sooner you get there, although there will likely be detours (usually necessary and instructive) along the way.

Even if you’ve made poor life choices and exist in a suspended state focused on survival and/or fulfilling the wants of others at the expense of your own happiness, I’ll bet that you’re happiest when you’re dancing, when you yield to that universal force (music) that demands movement and whose rhythms and melodies direct your actions. Dance more, worry less. Absorb the universal lessons taught by science and live your best life! Get active; it’s nature’s plan!

By michellefacos

I am a multi-lingual art historian, consultant (art, travel, writing), editor, entrepreneur, lecturer, and writer who has lived along the shores of the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and Lake Erie, in New York and in Paris, and in the forests of Quebec and Sweden. While I’ve lived a semi-nomadic existence for the past few decades, I’m inching toward a life anchored in Europe.


  1. My favourite videos to watch on YouTube are timelapse videos of plants growing from seed to fruit. They all dance throughout their growth and it is amazing to see! The dance style varies; from roots swaying like hula dancers, to stems jiggling like break-dance, and then the whole plant spiralling like sufi dancers, they are always in motion, in harmony.

    1. So true – I’m mesmerized by time lapse transformations. Dancing should be taught/encouraged at ALL ages! Who/what isn’t happy when moving in harmony with universal currents?!

  2. Wow, fascinating! Maybe the ones not currently dancing are still processing their past life…. I’d like to come back as a tree but maybe a placenta…

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