This I believe
I believe in dance. From contradance and country waltz, through lively cajun two-step and funky zydeco, to the complicated, sexy rhythms of salsa, cumbia and bachata, dance is a metaphor for life.
Last week I was at a dance and asked someone I hadn’t seen before to dance with me. He smiled ruefully and said, “I’m new. I haven’t figured out what to do yet.” “Well,” I replied, “You won’t learn by watching. You have to get out on the dance floor!” “But,” he said, apologizing in advance for the supposed awful dance experience he was about to inflict on me, “I don’t know how to dance!” “None of us was born dancing,” I said. “We were all beginners once. Just count to yourself until you can feel the music enter your body.”
And that’s the key. You have to participate in both dance and life to enjoy them and to get the most out of them. As in life, you have to make mistakes on the dance floor to get to the point where you can move smoothly across it. And even with experienced dancers, if your attention wavers, you can stumble or use the wrong foot at the wrong time. Every time I learn a new dance, I have to count, sometimes for months of practice, until the muscle memory takes over and the music drives my movement.
Couple dancing is a particularly apt metaphor, since no matter if you follow or lead, you have to be aware of your partner’s moves and attitudes, matching them as closely as you can. Isn’t life like that? Not everyone is your partner in life, but everyone you know or come into contact with shares some kind of experience with you. It’s up to you to make sure each experience is positive, whether you’re leading or following.
In fact, I believe so much in dance, that although I was taught and practiced many years as a follower, I have also learned to lead. When there are more women than men present at a dance, I would rather ask a woman to dance than sit out and watch others having fun.
I used to be a wallflower. When I was young, I thought I had to know how to dance to get out there and have fun. I watched couples waltz past me, obviously having fun and wished that I knew how. That was decades ago, and now there’s no more wallflowering for me. I finally realized that we were all meant to dance.
And isn’t that just like life? Like dance, it’s participatory.
There is a quotation I’ve seen on some dancers’ t-shirts. It’s my favorite, but I don’t know who wrote it. It goes like this, and it’s definitely my philosophy. Work like you don’t need the money; love like you’ve never been hurt; dance like nobody’s watching!
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