There’s a famous poem by Rumi: Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance, when you’re perfectly free.
I take an average of 8 to 9 dance classes a week. This seems to surprise some people. The busier I am the more I find it necessary to dance. I like to joke that it’s the cheapest (and pretty effective) form of therapy! It’s also great for development of neuroplasticity.
Something I don’t talk about as much is how dance is a platform for personal and spiritual growth for me. It’s where I go to heal, to process my challenges, to observe my inner mental landscape. I’ve chosen new dance genres to push myself out of my comfort zone and to learn new movement vocabularies.
I really value the community that I have found among dancers. We’re a very mixed group of people–usually a smattering of students, tech, admin and healthcare professionals–who show up every week ready to leave everything on the dance floor. It’s no small thing to struggle through choreography and brutal warm-ups (!), make mistakes, look less than perfect with our sweat-smudged faces and allow ourselves to be filmed in such a state (instagram!) in a crowd of people.
I started Junior Cius’ Hip Hop class in November of last year and really only had maybe 4 classes through the holiday season. Usually he teaches choreography and at the end of the class he has people volunteer to perform it while it is being filmed. This was always the part of class where I hid behind people and hoped I would never be called upon. Hip hop is new to me and I am still learning its vocabulary and how it fits in my body so the last thing on my mind was performing. On the last class before the holiday break, when Junior asked for volunteers I held back as usual and at the end of class he said to me, “Why didn’t you go up?”
That question stuck with me throughout the holiday break and I mulled on it quite a bit. When we went back after the break I had made up my mind. I was going to put myself out there, even when I wasn’t sure what I was doing and even when I wasn’t perfect. So this time, when Junior asked for 5 volunteers, I stepped up. I made up my mind to forget the camera and to just dance. The other dancers crowded around and cheered us on. Junior, of course, noticed that I had stepped up and he graciously celebrated this mindset change by dancing the combination with me and posting it on instagram.
Like therapy, dance class is about being present–fully embodied–and allowing oneself to be vulnerable with others. It’s about being seen in all our imperfections and still being accepted. The circle we make around those performing is the act of embracing their offering; the energy we give when we are performing is an act of generosity in sharing our humanity. Every time we go to dance class we’ve wandered a little further into the unknown and explored new terrain. We grow a little braver. We break open. Our steps are surer, firmer, more confident; we begin to spring.