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Dance Like No One is Watching

One of my most vivid memories from my beginner hip-hop class is the time when Giulia made us practice our dance with the lights off. I got the point – dance is about feeling the music not watching the movements – but frankly I missed the lesson. I was too focused on avoiding hitting the person next to me. I have enough trouble staying in my personal space when the lights are on….

I’m the stereotypical amateur dancer – so concerned about making a fool of myself in the studio that I stop myself from “going full out”.

Sidebar: Going full out involves any one or combination of the following: crotch grab during a pelvic thrust, hair flip while walking, grinding to the ground during a freestyle, changing your hat’s position at any point during a dance.

Inevitably, holding back makes me look more awkward. Commitment to the character you are supposed to be portraying, be it super sexy hear-me-roar woman or ballin’ gangsta’ don’t-mess-with-me tough guy, is what turns a dance into a performance. And, in a room full of professional dancers, I’m the only one not in performance mode.

Why is that? Why do those of us who don’t think of ourselves as dancers find it so hard to push out of our comfort zones when dancing? It seems backwards. The people who should be concerned about how they look are those who are expected to be good at this. As an amateur, I should feel the freedom to look like a fool and know that no one expects anything more than for me to try my best.

Ironically, dancing is an innate instinct. Turn on some music and pretty much any kid will start to move. Trust me, I’ve tested this on more than one occasion when a client of mine needed to “get the sillies out” before working on a therapy goal. Children naturally know when and how to move.

But then something changes. Sometime around the awkward pre-teen years, former booty-shakers are quick to exempt themselves from impromptu performances. Sadly, once going shy, most don’t go back to their carefree ways of shaking for the sake of shaking itself. I genuinely get sad (and sometimes frustrated) when I think about those I know who have permanently timed themselves out from the world of dance due to this acquired self-consciousness.

(Yes I am talking about you… Yes I’m singling you out in the blog…. You wanna’ fight about it? Meet me at 1350 Mazurette and we’ll battle it out! Hehehe, see what I did there?)

So a few days ago at work I was supposed to be writing some reports when I started thinking about this – the self-consciousness of non-dancers vs. the confidence of dancers. I thought about those I have taken class with; those I secretly wish I could emulate just for one count of 8; those whose run-throughs at the end of class get me star-struck enough to compel me to compliment them….. those who usually respond to such compliments with “oh I hate hearing that” or “really? “…. Really? You guys don’t know how amazing you are?

But those reactions are genuine (or the E3 dancers deserve some Academy Awards). Hmmm…

So I thought about it a bit more (at this point I was hoping that my reports would spontaneously start writing themselves)… Mirrors are a staple of any dance studio. Now technically when dancing in front of a mirror, you can see everyone in class. You can watch your choreographer, size up your competition, follow the example of a respected peer or appreciate the person in the back row who is trying her best.

But who do you really end up looking at? Whose moves are you scrutinizing?

Or, like me, do you even look at the mirror at all?

So I’m not alone in my insecurities, just in my inability to lose myself in my movements. I guess my challenge then is not to overcome my self-consciousness but rather to not let that impede my inner 6 year-old from shaking it out. (Ironically, anyone who knows me would have a hard time believing that my inner 6 year-old is ever held back.) So I have my new challenge…

… dance like no one, not even myself, is watching.

Note: No therapies were delayed or deadlines missed due to the writing of this blog entry.

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