Wait — I am speaking to you, especially if you sat there questioning, ‘Am I really a dancer?’ just a second ago. And especially-especially if you’ve been shying away from the dance scene, as of late.
I understand the challenges of dance as a demanding physical practice and mental endeavor (hello, coordinating every single body part, plus facial expressions – and memorizing intricate choreography!).
But dance is so much more than a body performing prescribed steps in a technically perfect manner.
As ballet icon Mikhail Baryshnikov said, ‘Dance for me a minute, and I’ll tell you who you are.’ The act of dancing can reveal our very spirits. And, perhaps more importantly, the act of dancing can lift our spirits – regardless of how much (or little) finesse we possess.
After all, dance is greater than physical movement as witnessed, and judged, by others. Dance is a gesture poured directly from the soul – or a mindful meditation – or a powerful reaction in dialogue with, and possibly in defiance of, the world that surrounds us.
When you allow yourself to feel these things – to move through life in your own unique style – even for a moment, you’re a dancer in that instant. Even when you’re off stage. Or feeling waaay over your head in a studio class. Or faltering behind the computer screen, trying to absorb a combo. Or spontaneously twirling around your kitchen. Or bopping around a nightclub, pulsing to the rhythm in a sea of writhing bodies.
Sure, oftentimes the term ‘dancer’ is used to connote professionals – like ‘chef’ and ‘pianist’ hint at extensive training, artistry and at least some level of success.
But whether you identify as a ‘dancer’ or a ‘dance enthusiast,’ let dance move you.
The editor in me would normally insist upon eliminating passive voice – except this time it’s intentional.
Dance is exciting. And dance vocabulary is full of verbs: plié, leap, turn, rise, glide, pop, fall.
When dancers pull off impressive moves, some supporters even shout ‘work!’ (alternatively ‘werk’… or ‘werq’?) to acknowledge the intense level of discipline required to perfect a trick, all while vulnerably baring their souls in a gripping, authentic performance.
And while that work does deserve celebration, many other types of dance are more accessible to everyday dancers – and also deserve merit.
There are so many ways to get our dance kicks – and they’re all valid.
So, when you receive the impulse to snap your fingers and two-step to a titillating tune? Let dance move you.
When the wave of joy in your heart sweeps through your being and you want to giddily jump around the room, victoriously punching the air like a five-year-old? Let dance move you.
When you’re feeling woefully angst-y or angry, and your emotions threaten to tumble out in a magnificent Martha Graham-inspired contraction or heavy krump stomp (nevermind that you’ve never practiced either dance style), let dance move you.
Allow your body to express yourself. Nobody needs to give you ‘permission to dance’ (thanks, BTS). Follow the old Nike adage and ‘Just do it’ because bad dance is better than no dance. It still fulfills a function, even if it’s ugly or as ungainly as a gangly-legged giraffe on its first labored attempt to stand.
Bad dance > no dance.
Of course, you don’t have to post your impromptu dances or awkward practices online for the internet trolls to feast on, before they dole out scathing unconstructive criticism as they sit on the sidelines, judging people who unapologetically pursue their happiness.
Despite a global obsession with social media, dance isn’t just for the consumption of others. You don’t need photos or videos of you dancing to realize its benefits. Just dance for yourself.
Beautiful or not, letting dance move you is powerful stuff.
(However, if you’re a woman in need of a supportive online dance space to share with other enthusiasts, I know just the spot…)
I regularly sign off emails with an encouraging ‘Let dance move you’, which applies to both recreational dancers and enthusiasts who are solely connoisseurs (watching famous ballets at opulent opera houses – or rooting on their favorite dance contestants on television competitions while in their pajamas) because dance touches them in a profound way – or in a less profound, but positively positive way.
Both are good.
But I sincerely hope you stand up and dance. Or flail your limbs around in bed. Or choreograph a face dance (they’re hilarious!). Move however suits you, and you’ll find a divine freedom, embodying your true self as you uncover infinite modes of expression.
And, if you want to enjoy it, don’t treat dance as a chore. Stop sighing, ‘Oh, I really should dance more’ before launching into a mile-long list of other things that have kept you occupied. This habit will continually make you feel guilty, which will make you continually avoid dance.
Remain receptive when dance inspiration strikes, when you need to shake things up (because you’ve become molded to your couch or desk chair) and any other time you feel is right. Don’t second guess yourself, simply let dance move you.
Let dance move you.
Let dance move you.
… PS. Can we also make this hashtag a thing? #letdancemoveyou #kthxbai 😊
PPS. If this is your first time meeting me, and you’re curious about who the heck I am, and what my experience with dance is, you can check out my street cred… er, bio.