It is a little-known fact about me that I like to dance. The other day I wondered why this is a “little-known fact” – why I never tell anyone this, as if it’s something majorly embarrassing – and then I read something in Bird by Bird and decided to write a post about it all.
Sure, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is mostly about writing, but the tagline says “some instructions on writing and life”, and that is the way I have taken it. The following quote is from the chapter titled “Broccoli” and is about finding, listening to, and trusting your intuition. (Yes, I do like that there is a chapter named after my favourite vegetable. It’s probably the only book I’ll ever read with a chapter named after broccoli.)
You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. … Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.
(p.112, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott)
I should mention first-up that I have no delusions of being a good dancer. I never took lessons apart from the handful of lessons in the lead-up to the Grade 12 Formal, where we learnt some basic ballroom dance steps; and my very brief stint in with the uni dance club, which met on a weekly basis to learn various dance genres; and, of course, random dance steps I picked up here and there from TV, YouTube or other dance enthusiasts.
Well, ok, maybe I have slight delusions of being a good dancer (or at least a “not terrible” one), but that’s because people tell me so.
I don’t do “proper” dancing, though. I do “dance like no one’s watching” dancing. Apparently that’s the secret. At parties, weddings, clubs – when people get on the dance floor, it’s easy to see who’s feeling a bit self-conscious. Dancing while self-conscious is not fun, cathartic or invigorating. I learnt that a long time ago, around the same time I realised no one’s really watching anyway. (And if they do, and they judge, then that’s no problem of mine.)
A friend of mine gave me a little collection of quotes for my birthday last year. Each quote is on a little display card with its own illustration, and the set currently sits in a little stand in the corner of the living room. Occasionally I rotate through the cards, and the one that was displayed at the time I read the above quote was so fitting that I decided to snap a photo to share:
I haven’t read much of Friedrich Nietzsche’s work (very little of it, in fact), but I would not have expected this quote to come from him… It does make me want to read his works though.
Anyone who knew me as a shy kid, or a quiet teenager might be surprised to know I’m now the person who tries to get everyone else on the dance floor. But I won’t pressure you, and I’ll go and dance anyway even if you don’t.
Sometimes a bit of dancing is all that’s needed to energise, awaken or uplift. That’s why people made morning raves.
I’ve always found running good for stress relief – good for getting rid of some tension, and just feeling good again. Boxing’s pretty good for that too. But if I can’t get to the boxing club or it’s not a good time for a run (too much rain, too much sunshine, or just don’t want to go outside for no particular reason), then dancing makes a good alternative.
For anyone curious about the broccoli, it’s a metaphor for intuition: If you’re not sure how to eat your broccoli, just listen to it, and it will tell you how. Maybe the same can be said of dancing. Sometimes the best dancing happens when you stop thinking, and that is another good reason to dance, because who couldn’t benefit from not thinking from time to time?
When “So you think you can dance?” was a thing (it was one of my most favourite TV shows), I’m sure the judges would always point out when a contestant looked like they were thinking too much about the steps. They would say that the dance lost some of its impact and emotion because of it. And sure, for professional dancers, learning steps is important, but dancing is not about thinking.
Give me some good music, and I will dance; or give me no music, but a bit of space, and I will dance anyway.