…And Dance as if no one’s watching

I know that many of you might recognise that phrase from one of many ‘feel good’ emails that seem to come into the inbox of most computers. As we waltz into 2006, here are a few reasons to get our two left-feet out on the dance floor of life (along with tips and opportunities, including Hypnosis Month Singapore, to improve your tango-ability).

This past month I’ve been fortunate enough to watch or participate in dancing on several occasions. From professionals boogieing at the Esplanade (not me) to forays into flamenco, belly dancing, line dancing, or incoherent jumpings around (the latter being more likely me). When I did it, it felt good, but I realised that I don’t do it very often… And I got to thinking about the idea that if the mind is where the action is and the body is where the reaction is, what’s in the reaction of dance?

“You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while… (There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind)”

Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam puts it simply, but there are a few other reasons to shake, rattle and roll…

1. We were built to move

Trees sway, grass rustles, flowers bloom. Birds soar, mice scamper, tigers pounce. Nature was made to move. And so are we. When we don’t, we’re working contrary to the ‘human manual’, and just like an unused car that rusts and decays, we need to use our bodies, so we don’t lose their functioning. When we align the purpose of our bodies (just like our purpose in thoughts and mental actions) we feel good, great even. Ever been breathless after a dance? Super. Not only are you doing your body good, but the oxygen that is pumping through your body, is also nourishing your brain and mental processes – thinking better, feeling better, doing better.

It often seems in today’s society that we take the Olympic view on movement – swifter, higher, stronger– urging us to do our time in the gym, to lift more, run further or harder. And I don’t disagree that I feel great after a good workout. But I’m looking at other options right now. At a wedding I attended recently there were a few little girls who spun and danced during the festivities. It was wonderful to watch. Dancing and moving like kids seems to reconnect us with a joyful inner self and helps us discover another option to ‘no pain, no gain’. (For those with no formal dance training, you can also flail and gyrate without repercussions because you’ll be dancing your inner child).

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.  ~Edwin Denby

2. Movement can be meditative or hypnotic, a thing of beauty

From the whirling dervishes to the trance dances of Bali, from hypnotic bass lines to drum beats, dancing can help us lose ourselves between body and mind. Strains of classical pieces or poignant words of songs can connect us with our feelings – giving us a multi-level workout. We connect with our senses – usually through sound/hearing – and then act upon it. Dancing is an expression of what we feel and who we are – at least once we ‘get into it’. During dance we can physically release feelings that no longer need to be there, and consume those emotions carried by the music and general mood of the dance floor. 

Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

3. Dancing helps us connect.

There was a program on Nova recently (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3204/01.html) about ‘mirror neurons’ – revealing that we learn by seeing and imitating (looking at kids you can spot that one right away). It also mentioned that simply by having had an experience in something, our watching others doing it sparks (to a slightly more subtle degree) our brains AS IF we were doing the same thing. Wow, how connected is that! I’ve noticed that when I’ve watched others that have really enjoyed the dance they were dancing, I felt good – almost like I had danced myself. But actually doing it brings even greater rewards. As mammals that socialise, dancing is a perfect platform for us humans, on all levels, to bond with others, to play with others, to discover others, and in their eyes, discover ourselves. From a group doing ‘the hustle’ steps, to the intimate footwork of a ballroom couple, we act and react profoundly in movement.

The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music.  Bodies never lie.  ~Agnes de Mille

The Terror of the Two-Step

But what if like many of us, we are nervous about shaking our bootie in front of others – or even alone in the privacy of our own room?

I read a story in a book called “The Wisdom of No Escape” that spoke of a group of people climbing a mountain. It was steep and after a little while some of the people in the group looked down, realised how high up they were and froze in fear. Others just laughed at that and went on, with the way getting increasingly steeper and more scary. And all along the path going up the mountain, people hit their edge, got scared and froze. Those who made it to the top looked out and were very happy.

But what’s the moral of this? She writes that it really doesn’t matter where you meet your edge; just meeting it is the point. Life is a journey of meeting your edge – it is in challenging yourself over and over. Those at the top were no better than the others – they just weren’t afraid of heights. They might find their fear and challenge elsewhere.

So it is with dancing. I know many people who profess they ‘can’t dance’ and stay on the sidelines. By doing so, they exclude themselves from all the benefits mentioned above. And, as they say, nothing happens until something moves, and sometimes the dance steps or movements may seem a bit uncomfortable in the learning, are usually the ones that bring us new experiences and future joy.

Fortunately, I’m exposed to many people meeting their edge, and dancing a new dance. Clients and students display courage and inner strength when they come with their issues with the intent to get past them. That’s really cutting the rug for good!

The Dance-Fear-New Year’s Resolution Success Link Revealed

Rather than making a laundry list of resolutions this year, might I suggest that you aim to meet your edge as often as you can. Not only will it reveal where you have set your own boundaries and limitations, but “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~Vincent Van Gogh. While dancing isn’t my personal edge, I have started my list of terrifying/exciting ‘things to do’ for 2006 – I can’t wait for the new year!


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