As someone who loves to move constantly, learns by doing and loves music, dance is a huge part of how I enjoy expressing myself. However, I grew up receiving the message that dancing was not OK. But like a dog wags its tale when it’s happy and excited to see you, music brings out the dance in me and I have to move.
When I first started dancing at the bar, I often felt frustrated by the lack of space and drunk guys crowding me or trying to grind on me. At one concert I went to, I got completely lost in the music until a guy grabbed my butt. I wasn’t even aware of his presence until that point. Politely I told him I wasn’t interested in dancing with him. He was offended and at the end of the night yelled insults at me as everyone was leaving. This experience added fuel to the idea that there must be something inherently wrong with me dancing. However, It didn’t stop me because something internally wanted to dance and loved the feeling of moving however I wanted to move. I spent hours dancing alone with no one’s eyes on me and no one telling me how to move.
Eventually I started to take a variety of dance classes. The first one was a kundalini dance class that used a combination of music, drumming, vocalization and verbal cues to induce a trance-like state and access a more abstract and archetypal state of being in the body. During one class, each one of us had the floor to ourselves for an individual dance that was initiated by a steady drumbeat that took each of us into our own dance with what perceptually felt like becoming one with the universe.
When my turn came, I closed my eyes and suddenly I connected with an archetypal energy whose role was to wipe the stars out of existence with one sweep of my arms and bring them back into the night sky with another. I recognized there was something powerful in connecting with this state that could help me access a different way of being in my life.
These states are not unusual although some people hesitate to talk about them for fear of being judged – or perhaps that is more my fear up until now. Human beings have accessed these states of mind for centuries through the use of psychedelics, breathwork, drumming, didgeridoo and dance.
Having the experience of feeling at one with the universe (or what some people refer to as God) helps to give us perspective on whatever we’re going through in the moment. I could never access this felt-sense sitting in a classroom listening to ideas or in church listening to more ideas.
The direct connection with life that happens when I’m moving is what gives me greater awareness of each moment as it passes through. I trust myself more when I’m moving because my whole nervous system is being activated, blood is pumping and my whole body becomes more awake to what’s inside me and around me. Like other animals shake trauma out of their bodies, dance gives me another opportunity to quite literally “shake it off.”
Interestingly, as I’ve grown more confident in my movement and have lost my fear of appearing “too much,” I’ve had many affirming experiences, one at a music and dance festival where a gentleman was passing by me as I danced and simply said, “You look like you enjoy being in your body.” I didn’t feel any expectation from him for me to dance with him nor did his mannerisms and language insinuate in any way that he thought I was dancing to attract his attention. He simply gave voice to a fact we both knew.
Dance has been and continues to be an integral part of my self-care practice. Dance has also given me tangible ways of dealing with personal boundaries as well as teaching me how to be confident in how I inhabit my physical form. I used to tame my movement, afraid to take up space. At a concert put on by one of my favourite groups last year, I followed my own lead and danced exactly how I wanted to without holding back, very aware of who was around me and completely in my body. Because music is such a powerful catalyst for me, it would have been completely unnatural for me not to move. All I got was respect and guys stepping back to give me space, an experience completely in opposition to the one I previously mentioned.
On the phone with a friend one night she said something that made me laugh for about ten minutes, “Don’t control your wag,” she said. Essentially: Don’t shut down your enthusiasm and excitement just because someone else doesn’t get it or judges you a certain way. And especially let it go if you want to control how you appear to another. Never stop your wag.