Where the dance takes you

Last weekend I celebrated three years of teaching Jazzercise. Three years. Wow.

It is roughly the same amount of time I’ve been living in California and working at Stanford. Moving here was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done—we were nearly broke, separated as a family for 8 months, and we struggled to settle in to the culture of the Bay Area. In many ways, Jazzercise was a saving grace. Dancing became solace and the Jazzercise community became my community and my friends.

Dance has become my story, my narrative of the last three years.

Dance as courage. To not just join the dance, as they say, but to dance when no one else is dancing. Courage to unabashedly dance to a rhythm that no one else dances to. Courage to dance an unpopular dance.

Dance as vulnerability. To dance in a way that people truly know what you are about, what you care about…a genuine true-to-self kind of dance. To embrace vulnerability is to close your eyes and not worry whether people are watching you dance, or what they are thinking, or whether they are laughing.

Dance as care. To love and be love because you are you. To love others because they are themselves. To find kindred spirits. Opening your arms and embracing the ones you love. Dancing through life’s ups and downs with them, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, but always there with them, sometimes in body, always in spirit.

I don’t always dance like this. But I try. Now I’m facing a new dance.

Dance as a leap of faith. To dance a new dance. To be willing to take a risk, try a new opportunity, step out onto a new dance floor, lights blazing on you as you look for a familiar face in the crowd. I am so grateful that I don’t have to do this alone. Now I want to share with all of you where the dance is taking me and my family.

In June, we are moving to Middlebury, Vermont, where I will be the new Associate Provost for Digital Learning at Middlebury College. In this position, I will build a team to help craft and support Middleburg’s digital learning strategy. After getting to know their amazing Provost, Susan Baldridge, and meeting faculty and staff, I knew that Middlebury was the right place for starting a new dance.

I’m excited and a little overwhelmed by this opportunity. I keep reminding myself to breathe, to take a step back, and to listen for the little music inside me. Do you know that music? It’s the music you hear when you close your eyes, and you calm the roaring crowds of self doubt, and you listen. And then you start to sway and feel the music move you right to left and left to right.

I’ve been reminding myself of what my favorite author, Anne Lamott, writes about dance (though here, she is talking about writing a first draft of a manuscript, I think it applies more broadly):

 “You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself, especially on a first draft, where amid the anxiety and self-doubt, there should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories walking and woolgathering, tramping the hills, romping all over the place. Trust them. Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”  — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Just dance. Three…two…one…here we go.

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