A teacher once told me, “How you do something is how you do everything.”
I decided to reflect upon this and relate it to one of my passions… dance. What I discovered about dance was beyond learning the basic steps as it encompassed many hidden life lessons. I began to unlock new attitudes and potential, while learning how to better relate to myself and others.
1) How to Be Yourself
When I was young, expressing myself through words was difficult. Dancing opened a new understanding in how to be myself - developing body awareness and discovering dance style and identity. Literally, I became comfortable in my own skin. I’ve let go of all the masks, labels and judgments and peel off the layers whenever I dance. I’ll dance in my room when no one’s watching or a dance social where everyone might be watching.
Dancing entrusts freedom within my soul. I’m at my best, where I dance meaningfully for myself. I move to shake off rigidity, to revisit joy and to build a new self-confidence. I feel the flow, connection and sometimes, I’m entranced into a meditative state. I connect to the most authentic and intense parts of myself, and I’m not apologetic for that!
2) Letting your Goofy Side Play
I had a friend in University who taught me it’s OK to look ridiculous while dancing. He would make this funny face and bring out all his silly moves at once. My friend told me it’s good to shake off that self-consciousness and laugh at ourselves.
Humour and play is beneficial to life, reminding us not to get too serious and critical. I’ll purposely make others laugh on the dancefloor if the mood and song call for it! Dancefloor comedian is a go.
3) Potential to Explore Beyond your Boundaries
Everyone has a comfort zone with our normal routine and preferences in life. What if you dared to step out and try new things? Strive towards what might bring you out of your usual element?
In the last year, I decided to learn cabaret. For those who aren’t familiar with this style, it requires much acrobatics, tricks and lifts. You need to be conditioned physically to be in top shape, develop absolute trust with your dance partner and naturally perform a grandiose presence in pulling off these epic moves.
I have a few confessions. I am afraid of heights. I’ve never done the splits or any gymnastic training. I’ve never performed before, and I have an unshakeable case of stage fright. This is one of my personal challenges to push beyond my physical and mental limitations.
With that being said, I am achieving baby steps and being gentle on myself when I need rest. You begin to learn that feeling scared is ok and work with it. Exploring your own potential beyond your boundaries is healthy (as long as it’s safe) and adds to personal growth. In these last months, I’m having many moments where I go, “hey, I didn’t know I could do that!”
And yes, I am making serious progress towards those front splits! :P
4) Communication and Adaptability
In partner dances, I’ve learned a great deal about following. Precise following means deep listening to your leads’ guidance. Every lead has a different feel and skill level in leading you. Some leads are strong and clear, rough or light, flashier or sticking more to the basics, beginner or more advanced, etc.
I listen and interpret, where I react to make quick decisions in following. I aim to adapt my dance to complement and bring out the best in my leads. If a lead makes a mistake, I cover up the mistakes. If a lead prefers strict following, I dare not hijack the dance at any point. However, if a lead is open to giving me space as a follow, I may inject more of my personal style, musicality and/or even switch roles to leading.
Non-verbal communication enriches how I relate to others off the dancefloor. I begin to understand more of what others are trying to convey and work together to accomplish a task or resolve misunderstandings.
5) Expanding the Definition of Creativity
Each art form has its own language. Painting captivates visually through composition, brush strokes, colours, etc. Music integrates silences and noise. Film speaks with combining sound, visual, acting, editing and angles to achieve its message.
Embodying a character role is one aspect to infuse creativity into dance. Once in belly dancing class, we had to role play a young girl transiting into adulthood. We were required to bring the powerful, feminine demeanor and engage with the audience. Dance is my type of acting without words.
Creativity in dance also involves understanding musicality. Musicality can broken down to two parts. First is tuning into the music and hearing its dynamics. For example, is it slow and romantic? Fast and anthem-inducing? Second is translating those musical nuances into discovering unique ways to move. For the slow and romantic, I may incorporate soft hand styling and figure-8 hips. Fast and anthem-inducing might inspire me to chest pop with sharp footwork.
Learning set dance patterns from classes and watching youtube videos are wonderful places to foster inspiration. However, I would also encourage experimentation and cross training in other dance styles. You begin to develop an overall appreciation, adopting new artistic elements that work within the particular dance framework and start standing out from the crowd.
Creativity is a process through experience and being bold with your artistic choices. It is best served with flexible and open mind. Plus, there is no right or wrong, only possibilities.
What life lessons have you learned from dance or any other passion? Please share in the comments!
Alana Chin Lue
I am a holistic health and reiki practitioner finding inspiration and wisdom through personal development, health and wellness, spirituality and life.