Why I Dance: A Story of Inspiration, Role Models, and Mexican Dancing Queens
Last night I started a dance party and changed a little girl’s life.
Well, that might be optimistic, but I can dream.
Our fancy Cancun resort threw all its guests a beach dance party. DJ’s, dance floor on the sand, glow sticks, lights, random tiki stuff… yes, you’re imagining it accurately.
But when we got there, the dance floor was packed…
With people standing still.
We figured out the problem quickly. A “dance circle” had been formed.
Dance circle of death.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about showing off skills and friendly dance battles, but when everyone else suddenly feels like all they can do is helplessly watch as one or two people take over the middle, I’m not a fan.
Why? Because music is made to be danced to by all bodies!
And all those bodies NOT moving to the music?! Now THAT’S wasteful to me.
The beats were blaring, everyone waiting for who will brave the circle and entertain them next, and hoping the teacher won’t call on them in front of the class.
We’ve all been there. Super uncomfortable in a situation where we think someone else is the expert and we’re less qualified to show up.
So anyways, my brother’s wife Erin, my sister Jess, and I decided that enough is enough, we are going to implode the circle.
We began calling people out, into the circle. Come join us, we motioned. And a few “first followers” later, we had the whole floor moving again.
Fast forward an hour into the night, we are sweating, have made friends with the breakdancers, and I couldn’t be more in my element.
I’ve noticed someone on the edge of the dance floor too, watching me.
No, not the creepy Hispanic Fabio.
A little girl. 9 or 10. With a braid down her back and a cute white dress to the floor.
She’s been watching, but she hasn’t moved. I smile at her and go back to flipping my hair around.
(Dance floor tip: If you are a lady with long hair and want to create space for yourself while dancing, just helicopter your ponytail for a bit. People will either back away or get smacked in the face. Your hair will win.)
Fast forward again, water break. Standing on the edge of the crowd.
The same little girl comes up to me, smiles with nervous puppy dog eyes, and asks me what will be my favorite question of this trip so far…
“Hola Señorita" She pauses.... "How do you dance?”
Her name was Isabella. And a million more questions lurked behind her curious, innocent words.
"Can I move like that too? Who will I be when I grow up? Will I be like you? Am I good enough?"
She melted my heart that very instant, and I felt so connected across age and culture.
I told her a few things. I said:
I dance by turning off my brain.
I don’t listen to what it THINKS I should look like. I don’t listen to what it tells me other people think.
I dance by listening to my body.
If my arm wants to wiggle this way or that way, I let it wiggle away!
I dance by listening to my heart.
If I feel a certain way, I let that feeling tell me how to move.
I dance by feeling the music.
The bass in my chest, the vocals in my throat, I listen in many ways and I trust what happens.
And I let myself look as silly as possible.
I know that with confidence, those wiggles all of the sudden turn into something greater.
I told her all the things I wish someone strong and confident and beautiful and expressive had told me at her age.
And then there was the list I didn’t tell her:
Without dance, I would still be re-experiencing trauma from my childhood on a daily basis.
Without dance, I would have no idea how to use deep emotions like anger productively.
Without dance, I wouldn’t know that my sexual energy is a potent creative force in all areas of my life, not just the bedroom.
Without dance, I would not be alive.
And that is why I hate dance circles. Because dance is literally my lifeblood, my prayer, my wellspring. And it hurts to see people scared away from taking their own drinks...
People who have been told that dance is only for the professionals or when no one else can see you.
Who have been told that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Who have been told that there is a right body and a wrong body to move it.
Who have been told to stop dancing.
My heart breaks for us all who have been told to leave our bodies behind.
I asked Isabella after we talked a while if she wanted to come dance with us. She was nervous and excited, she wasn’t sure if she could do it. But slowly I watched the worry wash away from her face and shoulders. Slowly I watched her smile spread wide and catch in her eyes as she felt more and more safe to jump around, raise her arms, and sing along.
I watched her become a queen in her own body and mind.
When we imploded that dance circle, it wasn’t to show off. It was to reclaim for the room what is our human right and desire to move freely. It was to remind the room that we can all dance.
Because dance, to me, is not about a performance skill. I totally know there are INCREDIBLE dance performers who dedicate their life to their art and discipline, and I so so so deeply respect and admire them. But for the rest of us, it helps to know that it’s still okay to move, even if we will never be that. Even if we will always look a little silly.
It helps to be reminded that dance isn’t just about looking good on the outside. It’s about moving energy, feeling deeply, sharing an experience with others, and living in the moment.
I KNOW it’s those things that have given me the freedom to move my body in front of others again. And I believe it’s those things my little girl Isabella was really wondering about.
To be free and invite others to be free.
This is Why and How I dance.