I remember my very first dance. I was in the 6th grade and had just moved to what was my third school within a few months time. Pennsylvania had yet to woo me with her charms and I felt out of place among the five girls at my new school. I was also a pretty big nerd, and was grateful for the conformity of a school uniform. But this was the big dance, the chance for each person to shine with individuality, free of a dress code.
I remember standing in front of the mirror, tall and gangly, awkwardly wearing my long limbs that I had yet to grow into. I was wearing black dress slacks, a frumpy red turtleneck, and pointy patent leather shoes that I had begged my mom for at the local department store. I was shaping up to be the next Hillary Clinton. The girls around me had on miniskirts and camis that showed off budding cleavage, paired with sweaters that were a size too small. I was out of place and self-aware. I went to the dance anyway and rocked the snack bar, until one of the boys asked me to dance. I think his exact words were, “I like your turtle neck.” We remained friends for years, and I danced just as I was.
The past few months I have been getting back in touch with a love of dancing while leading an intuitive movement class at Davidson. Each week the students dropped their preferred songs into the playlist and we got down. We moved in the dark with glowsticks, shimmied blind folded, banged on drums and maracas, and we even let our tongues do the tango with sour patch kids. I think I was the only one that sustained an injury…from a massive slip-on-a-banana-peel-legs-flying-through-the-air kind of fall doing the Macarena…oh wait. That was just me dancing at home alone.
The point is, we played, we danced, we laughed, we unabashedly co-created together and it was beautiful. From the first class where no one was dancing to the last one where everyone was running about the room to the Jaws theme song and making Chewbacca noises—each person learned to check self-awareness at the door to melt into the energy of the group.
When I think about who I aspire to be as a dancer, and what I hope to pass on to my students, it’s not Martha Graham or Isadora Duncan—it’s the tree in my backyard. This massive Virginia Pine that rocks and shakes with the biggest of storms, and sways gently in the summer breeze. That old, craggy pine tree allows the invisible force of the breeze to take the lead, and she gently yields to its pull. Her roots allow her to feel secure in her strength, and from those roots her truck is malleable to the ebb and flow of the wind. She is fixed in flexibility, strong in surrendering. Its only when her branches resist the wind, asserting their own agenda, that they snap and break. Life is such a beautiful dance if you’re willing to let go of the lead. Allow yourself to root into what you want and be flexible enough to let Spirit fill those needs in a different way. When we stand tethered to an image of what life should be, we forget to dance with the flow of life.
You don’t need training as a classical ballerina or a polished modern technique. The tree is the best teacher. All she needs is simply a willingness to be vulnerable, dropping the shame and self-awareness, enough to be out on the dance floor. And then a willingness to touch and to be touched by the breeze. A willingness to surrender and trust. Rooted in the present moment, you can sway your hips with destiny, letting your future unfold leaf by leaf, petal by petal.
So in true 90’s fashion, I hope you dance.