I’m still recuperating from a Cold From Hades, and I’m doing the Dance of Stillness…but I recently rediscovered this article that I wrote four years ago (!!!), and I just had to share. Every word still rings true for me, and that’s a really great feeling.
Dancing Through Life
You are a dancer.
How do you respond to those four simple words? An incredulous shake of the head? Thinking “Yeah right, you’ve never seen me dance!”? Or how about “well, I take dance classes…” A few will respond with a “yes, yes I am!” –and if you did, I salute you!
Regardless of your response to these four words…they’re true. You are a dancer –everyone is. You don’t need to take lessons, be model-thin, or be under twenty-five years old. We can all dance –everyone, regardless of age, gender, or shape. Movement is our birthright. We were born dancers and we remain dancers all our lives –sometimes we just forget. Fear, rules, and judgements get in the way.
These days we are taught to think of dance as performing a series of steps that conform to a certain technique. These techniques have established dance as an important art form, but they have also made people forget about its true nature.
Dance has become black and white: you either perform the steps “correctly” or “incorrectly”; you either dance “well” or you dance “badly.” We watch talent shows that reinforce this idea, showing us an endless parade of “wannabe dancers” who dance their hearts out in front of judges, only to leave the stage humiliated and defeated. No wonder so many of us are afraid to move!
But what if we chose to embrace a larger definition of dance, seeing it as a union of body, mind, and soul unique to every one of us? What if the dance stopped being about performer and audience and became solely about the dancer and the music? What if we could step into a space and move however we felt without worrying about what we looked like?
Welcome to the world of healing dance, also known as ecstatic dance.
This is a world we glimpse as children running through fields or twirling until we can’t stand up for dizziness. It’s the world we touch when we’re out at a nightclub with our friends and we stop worrying about how we look, or when we’re in our beloved’s arms and it seems like no one else exists.
It’s a world that contains unlimited sources of joy and unlimited capacity for healing if we can only learn to access it. If we can throw out everything we ever learned about self-consciousness and start again from a place of joy and innocence, we can achieve mind-body connection, an open heart, and increased confidence. We can literally dance through life.
Healing dance is what I do. It’s what I started doing when I was three, dancing around the living room to whatever music I felt like. Since then I’ve spent most of my life exploring “the dance world”: thirteen years of pre-professional ballet training, four years of modern dance and choreography, and experiments with jazz, ballroom, belly dance, and flamenco, but no established style has given me the same unadulterated joy as the dance of Myself. It’s taken me years to realize this.
Healing dance is meditation in motion.
Sometimes my dance is the dance of stillness. Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s angry, but it is always me. Little by little I’ve learned—am still learning—to let go of my outer (critical) awareness and just be in the movement.
Some days it’s easy. Some days it’s hard. As with any practice, some days resistance takes over and I get caught up in avoidance. But eventually I come back to the dance, back to the breath, back to the movement –back home.
Beginning your own dance practice is easy. You don’t need special clothes, a certain fitness level, or a specific amount of time to practice. All you need is space in a room where you can move without bumping into anything or worrying about being interrupted (unless you feel like inviting others to join you, that is). There is no right or wrong way to start dancing, but you should always warm up a little bit first. Try a short walk, some yoga, or some gentle movement. Your body will thank you!
Because the dance is yours alone I can’t tell you what steps to do or give you a sure-fire routine. But here are two of my favourite ways to start:
I. The dance of the breath:
Standing in the middle of your space, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Feel the movement of your lungs as you breathe in and out. Slowly begin to follow this movement with your body –expanding on the inhale, relaxing on the exhale.
Allow this movement to gradually fill your whole body as you stretch out into space on the inhale and contract small on the exhale. Play with the speed and force of your breaths. See where the dance of the breath takes you.
II. The dance of joy:
Pick a few of your favourite happy tunes and put them on. Move into your space, close your eyes, and feel the mood soak into you. When you’re ready, let the music move you —dance your joy!
No two dances will be the same. Tailor your practice to suit your mood and your energy level. It’s ok to just lie on the floor and follow your breath if that’s all you feel up to. Don’t be afraid to be silly, bizarre, ungraceful, or awkward—be open to whatever comes.
Soon you will find that the dance comes more easily to you. You’ll hear a song on the radio and find yourself dancing along. You’ll move in new ways without fear of being seen. You’ll begin to find joyful moments—joyful movements—in each day.