Have you ever met a dancer? All we talk about is dance. We probably drive people nuts with it. It’s just that we can’t imagine anyone living their life without it. The truth is… we are obsessed. I never noticed how much I talked about dance until I brought my friend, who is not a dancer, to a group gathering after a performance in college. The conversations all revolved around the difficulties we had with our quick changes, whether or not we forgot a portion of a combination, and “Oh my gosh! How wonderful did it feel to nail that triple pirouette?!” I could only imagine what my friend was thinking, though thankfully, she smiled and did her best to keep up with us. Only at this point did I realize how much I filter myself when talking to non-dancers. It takes a lot of willpower, trust me. Do people in other professions feel this way about their work? I imagine other artists, teachers, and such have similar experiences. Or even the more corporate careers- how often do we hear the story about the housewife that is upset because her husband is career-driven and always working?
I don’t think it’s the same, though. I think dancers are a whole different breed. We are not normally driven by money, because we don’t make a lot if it; we are also not normally driven by fame, because the chances of getting any in this field are very, very, very low. So then, why do we do it? I can’t speak for every dancer, but I can speak for myself…
Let me share with you something that happened in my teen contemporary intensive class last night. I had a few girls in this class for the first time, and many of them I’ve been teaching for years now. They are all great kids, and they are very different personalities. They have one thing in common, though; they are all teenage girls. Do you remember being a teenager? There is so much pressure to deal with! From your parents always on your back, to trying to fit in at school, to whether or not the boy in math class is ever going to text you. This all dwindles down to one common issue: Self esteem. Every single one of these kids is trying to find out who they are and where they belong.
We stood in a circle after our warmup and I asked the girls, “Dancing in front of others can feel… [_____]?” I encouraged them to shout out answers to fill in the blank. They began to throw out some normal responses like “exciting!” and “fun!”; then came the more honest and raw responses. I heard a soft “scary”, then a “judgmental”, followed by “embarrassing.” See, as it turns out, these girls all felt insecure dancing in front of others because of the white noise and voices in their heads telling them they aren’t good enough. So what did I make them do? I asked them to take turns dancing in the circle… by themselves. They could stay in the center as long as they’d like, then they would need to invite the next dancer in. I told them my goal was not to make them feel uncomfortable, but to encourage them to open up, be vulnerable, and feel their strength. Every single one of those girls went into the circle with fear and doubt, but came out lighter and more liberated. They each did it in their own way; some of them only spent 30 seconds in the circle, while others spent almost a minute. The amount of time in the circle didn’t matter because, for each of them, it served a different purpose. It provided a different need.
And that is why we do it. Because we know that there is no greater feeling than the freedom and joy you get when movement takes a hold of you. When you let go of all your inner battles and white noise. When you overcome that obstacle of fear and judgment and allow yourself to grow and learn. When you dance your heart out.