Dancing: a gift, a mirror and a window

I have always loved to dance. From youth ballet classes at the local Linwood Recreation Center, to dancing around the living room with my dad to classic oldies records, choreographing dances to *NSYNC songs with my friend (I still know every lyric), LOTS of family weddings (what happens when you have over 40 cousins), and really any chance I could. But as I grew up, I grew further away from it, as sports took a more prominent role in my life. After high school, I had google searched places to re-learn dance on numerous occasions – ballroom, salsa, swing – you name it. But I never seemed to have the energy or time to dedicate to it.

My solo ballet recital at Linwood

It was only recently, when I returned from my backpacking trip to the long, cold Minnesota winter, did that change. I knew I would finally be in one place for a little while (at least a few months 😉 ) to focus on my coaching, and I was craving movement that I enjoyed – not outside freezing or at a gym. After a slightly overwhelming bout of research, I fell upon Dancer’s Studio. It was close by, had great reviews, was reasonably priced, and had a lot of class options, so I decided to try a free lesson. I was able to sample both a group and private, and it just felt right. I know that I’m someone who likes to learn by doing and in more of a one-on-one environment, so I decided to gift myself lessons and it is one of the best things I have ever done. I found a fabulous instructor (thank you Joel!) who, through teaching me to dance (West Coast Swing 🙂 ), also helped me to open up and grow as both a person and dancer. I began to see so many relationships between how I approached dance and how I approached life.

The Gift.

Dancing has truly been a gift in my life in many ways. It has gifted me:

  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Friendships
  • Positive male (and female 🙂 ) figures in my life who appreciate and respect me as a person…not that the other men in my life don’t, I just felt this overwhelmingly across all the people I’ve come to dance with, and it’s very special.
  • Lightness in the dark of winter
  • Natural movement
  • A different relationship to touch that is so often lost in today’s society…one of trust and partnership and connection. It’s been proven through research that, in infants, lack of physical contact can prevent normal development and can even lead to higher rates of illness or death. Yet as adults we easily forget the importance of caring, physical touch and instead are taught that touch is primarily sexual and bad. Not true. And dance has been a beautiful example of this.
  • Positive challenges through being in new environments and learning new skills – finding confidence, knowing my truth, and making peace with being a beginner
  • Separating how well I do something from my identity and self-worth

The Mirror.

Dancing has also acted as a mirror in my life, reflecting back different tendencies or beliefs I carry with me. Not necessarily viewing them as good or bad, but providing greater awareness into them and allowing me to consciously act upon them in new ways.

A few key themes I recognized and worked on (and continue to work on ha) are below. Maybe you can see some of the symmetries between dance and life 🙂 :

  • Patience. In dance this means waiting that extra second in my anchor step. Like in life, getting comfortable with what may at first be uncomfortable. Letting the dance go where it takes me. Creating space to gather myself before moving forward. Taking a breath and not rushing, being so eager to get to the next move or step, that I miss out on the beauty in the present connection. Being.
  • Staying grounded. Feeling the floor. Less bounce and more contact…the opposite of me running ha. Grounding has at the forefront in my life the past couple years, in terms of finding my root and where I belong. It always make me think of the root chakra, and finding a sense of peace and stability – both physically and emotionally.
  • Staying centered. In dance, moving from within myself, maintaining a strong core and not leaning or reaching in every different direction. In life, moving in line with my heart, and not spreading myself thin or wanting to go a million places at once.
  • Small steps. They make a difference in both control and flow. You don’t have to do it all at once, and generally can’t.
  • Listening and Connection. Paying attention to the partnership. Quieting the mind and tuning in to the feel. Partaking in the conversation with both give and take.
  • Play. Embracing experimentation, trial and “error”, personality, and styling – not being afraid to be me and try new things, without knowing how they might turn out. It could be not so great, but it could also be really great. Thinking less in terms of right and wrong, and more in terms of possibility and creativity.
  • Trust. Trusting my dance partner and trusting myself. That my feet will take me where I need to be.
  • Receiving support and not trying to do it all myself. This was especially apparent for me in dips. Learning to let go. Surrendering. We can’t do it all ourselves and it’s okay to lean on the support of others who want to help us and be there for us.

The additional experience of my very first WCS competition weekend (with workshops and social dancing), added another layer as I branched out to dance with new people. I found myself dancing somewhat “afraid” and “small” (or so I was told, and I could feel it). Afraid of messing up, not being able to follow someone’s lead, not being desirable to dance with, because at only 4 months, I wasn’t nearly as experienced as the majority of attendees. Dancing small and not tall, in terms of owning who I was and where I was at in the dance journey. Luckily, I had a great support system alongside, from my studio, the Minnesota dance community and several newly made friends, who helped me break free from those (rather subconscious) thoughts and re-find that joy that drew me to dance in the first place. I ended up making it all the way to 5:20am dancing, so I’d say that was a success 🙂 .

The Window.

If eyes are the window to a person’s soul, then dancing may be the window to their character and personality. I find it amazing how much you can learn about someone by how they dance with you. Never right or wrong, just unique to the individual. I see it through the initiative someone takes (or doesn’t) to ask others to dance, interest in dancing with someone new or different, how they greet you, hold your hand, whether or not they smile, look at you, seem to enjoy themselves, or maybe rather be elsewhere. You can see how much someone may need to be right and in control (I definitely experienced a few criticisms when I wasn’t able to follow a lead and they kept trying to force it…but understanding it’s coming from within them and not taking it personally – if you haven’t read The Four Agreements, you should!). Or conversely, how well someone adapts to your level and makes you feel comfortable. It’s easy to find the type of person you gravitate to and want to be around. Forget about a first date, try a first dance ha. But honestly, dancing is an incredible way to meet some really wonderful people 🙂 .

Whether it’s dance, another activity that interests you, or a skill you want to learn, I highly encourage you to #justdoit. Because if not now, when? It’s so important to find things you love doing for YOU, and in following those passions, you cultivate a community around you to support and share in the experience.

The Spring Showcase at Dancer’s Studio (my adult recital 😉 )

Don’t be afraid. To feel joy. To play. To move in ways that feel good. To connect with others. To connect with yourself. To dance your way through life. You will learn so much in the process.

Yours jenuinely, xoxo

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