It’s funny, but there are a lot of people that are scared of the word “dance”. We all come with our preconceptions of what dance is and to many people it’s pretty scary.
Confession time: I started writing this to disprove the thought of dance being scary, but then realized that I agree...
Dance exposes you. You can lie with your mouth, but your body can’t lie. What you see is what you get. And that’s incredibly scary and uncomfortable. You can’t hide behind movement; you will be exposed. This may sound extreme but it really isn’t. You are literally using your body to communicate what your heart is trying to say. Everyone watching you move can tell if your heart is really behind your movement. Now some will question this and say, “but I just dance for fun...how is my heart behind that?” And I would respond...have you ever watched people dance at a wedding? When the “Electric Slide” comes on and everybody comes onto the dance floor- people are exposed right there in that moment. I can group everyone on that dance floor into two groups...the ones that want to be on the dance floor and the ones that don’t. And as the song lingers on, we all know whose heart is behind that movement and whose heart is back at the snack bar.
Dance is a release. To physically move your body at all, even the smallest of movements, there must be a release of energy. But I’d like to take things a step further...I’d like to suggest that to dance there really must be more than a mere physical release, there must be emotional and mental releases as well. There have been many times, when I have gone into a space to dance and have brought all my “crap” (aka stresses, worries, fears, distractions, doubts) and I’ve been unable to move...it doesn’t work. Dance is a release, but to be able to dance you have to be willing to release. You have to be willing to release all that crap that you’ve been lugging around. Unwillingness to release cripples dancing.
Dance takes us out of our comfort zones. Over the years, dance has taken me many places. I can admit that most of those places were far outside of my comfort zone. Being comfortable is nice, but staying in an area of comfort doesn’t promote growth but stagnates it. It’s only in the zone outside of the comfort that we are stretched, molded, and pushed to become better. Failure is imminent, but strength is gained when we get back up.
I have been dancing for 27 years now and honestly, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with dance throughout the years. There have been times where I didn’t want people to see the real Caroline standing in front of them. There have been times when I wasn’t ready to release all the “crap” that I was carrying around. Dance has been an essential tool of healing and expression in my life and now as a teacher, it is extremely important for me that my students go on the journey of learning how to release, learning how to be open and honest with the audience, and finding the confidence to step out of their comfort zones.
And as a dance teacher, but even as a human being, there is very little that infuriates me more than when a person is robbed a chance of reaching their full potential, especially when a decision or choice is made out of fear of the unknown. I’ve known a lot of people that think dance is “sissy”, that dance is only for girls, and that if a boy dances then he must be a “sissy”... #1 Who cares???? As if being gay or girly were some sort of communicable disease. #2 Probably best you get any weird phobias taken care of before you dance... remember you will be exposed. #3 Now, if you think that dance makes you a certain way, I am glad to say you are mistaken. You are you and dance doesn’t make you who you are, but it can certainly bring out some of the best in you.
Truth is, dancers are some of the most genuine and courageous people that I know. And actually, anyone can be a dancer, they just have to have the guts to try.
So yeah...”dance” is a scary word. But true dancers brave it out.
Caroline Poppell; Founding Director of Milk Carton on a String