I begin these rather tentative and exploratory reflections by calling upon some provocative remarks by George Beiswanger, from an essay written some years ago and later reprinted:
Muscular capacity is the physical means by which dances are made. But the means becomes available to the choreographic imagination only through the operation of a metaphor, a metaphor by which a moving in the muscular sense takes on the character of a doing or goings-on. … Strictly speaking, then, dances are not made out of but upon movement, movement being the poetic bearer, the persistent metaphor, by which muscular material is made available for the enhanced, meaningful, and designed goings-on that are dance.
Though this passage summarizes a view that I shall try to defend and articulate, the attempt to apply the concept of metaphor troubles me: it seems a strained extension of an otherwise reasonably clear and useful term. So instead of Beiswanger's rather mysterious “operation of a metaphor” I shall suggest we employ some concepts and principles borrowed from the philosophical theory of action. But I still like his favored expression for what we are all trying to understand better—those special “goings-on” that constitute dance.