I believe that the world, its diverse peoples, and the rocks, trees, birds, and waters that surround them are all encompassed by one word: DANCE. Succinctly defined, it means “to move rhythmically, usually to music.” There need not be a stereo blasting catchy tunes, or special shoes, or a flashy disco ball for dance. Dance will arise in any medium- it is the underlying principle of nature.
The times I feel at peace are those when I can simply observe the dances of life: the bubbling of a spring, the march of dutiful ants, or a tree’s humble act of sustaining life for its many components. “Bored” is not a word I can use to describe my feelings. There is always someone or something dancing, if I watch carefully.
The rhythm for these dances need not be regular- a regular rhythm is something manmade, not natural. Even the heart has hiccups. A constant rhythm, flawless and unfaltering, would bore me. The very thing that makes rhythm, dance, and life itself interesting is the occasional beat that arrives a hair too early or a hair too late to be considered uniform. The surprises and spontaneity present in every natural rhythm, and in every dance, are what make it so enjoyable.
When I dance, I usually don’t smile and laugh at the moves that are executed carefully and systematically. I save this reaction for the moves that go wrong by accident, like when someone’s arm hits me in the head, or when I slip and fall, or when someone makes up a crazy move that confuses me, or when someone spins me fifty times and then drops me, or when someone’s breast pops out of her dress (trust me it happens).
I didn’t always find pride and enjoyment in the foibles of dance. When I first started dancing at age 11, and up through age 13 or 14, I only wanted to learn the moves and do them correctly. I got mad at myself when I made mistakes and put momentous effort into accuracy. Yet, I was surprised when I didn’t make it into the Nordquist Junior Dance Club, a local group well-known for its excellent dancers as well as its exclusivity. I concluded that I was not picked due to my hippie outfits and lack of make-up, but, as my mom pointed out, this wasn’t the whole reason. She kept telling me, “You’re stiff,” and I didn’t know what to make of it. It took me years, about six of them, to realize that dance is not meant to be systematic, like the math problems I was accustomed to performing in school, but rather free and spontaneous, like art. That is what dance is: the art form that always surrounds us.
With my newfound understanding, I delight in teaching dance to others, particularly swing dance because of its spontaneity. My approach to teaching is one that promotes the creativity and confidence that is necessary for dance. When I ask a stranger to dance and he tells me he’s not very good, I tell him, “That’s not true. You’re awesome.” I say this because I believe that dance is an art that need not be perfected to be perfect.
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