Courage to Dance

This month, I am celebrating two years of teaching Jazzercise. It has been two years of learning new routines, finding my voice and presence on stage, lots of oops-es and blunders and complete loss of functional memory, one tumble (twisted my ankle on a relevé), and tons of smiles, hugs, and greetings. Two years of learning clients’ stories, what makes them tick, what brightens their days, what their favorite songs are. All of these things live in the dance of Jazzercise.

I admit that I am sometimes hesitant to tell people that I teach Jazzercise. I’m not ashamed, just would sometimes rather not deal with the inevitable questions and occasional teasing that follows my admission. But recently, as I was telling someone about my “other job,” he responded, “Dance? Oh, I hate dancing.” I stopped cold like someone had just crazy-glued my shoes to the floor. I thought, You hate dancing?! Seriously, you hate to dance?! How is that even something someone can hate?!

The thing is, though, that dance is often a really uncomfortable and vulnerable activity. It can come with judgements: your own about yourself as a dancer & others’ judgements about your dancing. It can be uncertain. Am I doing the right thing? Does this look weird? Are people looking because I’m awesome or because I’m hideous?

I remember when I first started taking Jazzercise, back in 2010, with no dance background (unless you count those dance parties I had in my room with stuffed animals, rocking out to Michael Jackson and Banda Eva). In that first class, I remember thinking that I wanted to stand in the back row because nobody would be behind me. I felt vulnerable and awkward as I took a spot next to my best friend, who had invited me to Jazzercise and whose presence there reassured me, even though she is an intimidatingly-good dancer. It took a lot of courage to stick with class that day, but my insecurities soon turned into joy as I had found this activity that offered such freedom. Yes, the moves were choreographed (and, man, it’s a good workout), but the rhythm of the music as it punched through my veins and awoke my muscles, that was all mine and I was addicted. Suddenly dancing in the room full of people felt like a religious experience.

See, dance is one of those strangely “edge” activities. It can be vulnerable and scary and awkward while simultaneously being liberating and joyful and healing. The further you venture onto the emotional and physical edges of dancing, the scarier and yet more liberating it is. That’s what makes dancing such a profoundly human experience. That’s why everyone should dance.

In the Jazzercise classes I teach, dance ties us together in beautiful and unexpected ways. We aren’t just a group of people who work out together, we dance together. We are a community. A recent string of family tragedies that hit our Jazzercise community reminded me of a wonderful quote by Gloria Anzaldua, from her book This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation:

“Though we tremble before uncertain futures
may we meet illness, death and adversity with strength
may we dance in the face of our fears.”  (p. 575)

And this one from my favorite author, Anne Lamott:

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” 

Dance in the face of fears. Dance in spite of a broken heart. Dance to heal. Dance to find that place in your heart that holds the people dearest to you, here and gone. Dance to celebrate. Dance to hold hands with someone you love. Dance to find strength. Dance to find yourself.

Will you find the courage to dance today?

After one particularly harrowing day at work/life, I put on some blues music (a family favorite) and started dancing around the living room. Vaughn said, “mommy, why are you dancing?” I said, “Because I had a really tough day today. I need a little dance. Will you dance with me?” He feigned embarrassment for just a moment before he said, “Sure, mommy. I’ll dance with you.” And we did. And Mike joined in. And we danced together. We danced away the rough day, we invited joy. We danced in the face of uncertain future, we danced because we celebrate today.

“These are the words I want on my gravestone: that I was a helper, and that I danced.”  – Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually), Thoughts on Faith

Need more reasons to dance? (really??)

24 Hours of Happy

Dancing in the face of breast cancer surgery

We Can Dance Hollywood Dance Tribute

Pharrell’s tears of joy on seeing people Happy around the world

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