What is the symbolic meaning of dancing in the play "Master Harold...and the Boys" by Athol Fugard?
In the play Master Harold...and the Boys by Athol Fugard, dancing is one of the two major symbols Fugard uses, the other being the brown-paper kite. Sam dreams of a collision-free ballroom floor where no one trips, stumbles or runs into anyone else. Dancing helps the dancers to find or build order where disorder is perceived, and this ability to find or build order carries over to their perceptions of life in an out-of-control world. While Sam is explaining this to Hally, he begins by saying that in the ideal ballroom and, metaphorically, ideal world that he is describing there are no "collisions." He ends by saying the ideal is like a "dream" of a world in "which accidents don't happen."
The metaphor of dance supports the theme in the book, that if everyone could learn to dance happily with partners, and without collisions, then everyone would be happy and there would be less conflict in the world. For example, Sam helps Willie learn that in order to be a successful duo he needs to get along with his partner, and forgive any mistakes made by his partner. He expresses his disapproval of Willie’s methods of correcting Hilda’s mistakes, “Beating her up every time she makes a mistake in the waltz? (Shaking his head) No, Willie! That takes the pleasure out of ballroom dancing” (7). The theme of dance is also brought up when Hally questions Sam about bumping into one another when dancing; Sam explains, “There’s no collisions out there, Hally. Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody else”(45). Sam is trying to tell Hally that in order for people in the world to get along, there needs to be peace, love, and caring about one another rather than fighting and violence. “None of us knows the steps and there’s no music playing. And it doesn’t stop with us. The whole world is doing it all the time” (46). In other words everyone in the world is still struggling in ways to get along with one another. Hally still hasn’t quite learned the steps to the “dance” because he’s still “bumped into your mother, who has bumped into your dad”(46). For Hally instead of bumping into his father anymore he bumps into Sam, because he has changed in the ways that he now sides with his dad over Sam. The importance of the dance metaphor is used to show that Willie has learned to get along with Hilda, and by the end has conquered the dance.
Dancing is essentially one of the most important elements in the story as it shows how you can 'dance your problems away.' Dancing relieves stress and eliminates collisions. Furthermore, dancing is shown as a harmonic symbol as no one bumps into each other and everyone lives without difficult situations.