As a dance teacher I often hear one of three things: “I love dance,” “I hate dance,” or most commonly the “I can’t dance” phrase. How can a person put dance into such simplistic, generic categories? Dance is not just one thing, dance is many things. Dance is everywhere and dance is a bigger part of your life than you probably even realized.
I often start new dance classes by asking my students…what comes to mind when you think of dance. Is it a professional ballerina on stage in a tutu? A couple slow dancing at their wedding? A little girl doing tap dance in her first recital? A hip hop break dancer busting a move on stage? A dance competition on television? We all have an immediate thought about what dance is and it typically includes the concepts of performing, social dancing or dance entertainment. Yes, dance is all of those things I just mentioned, but it is so much more.
Dance represents our past, present, and future.
Some historians believe dance has been around for over 5,000 years tracing back to originating in India and Egypt. Despite present day popularity in the dance world, Ballet was only created in the 14th century and Hip Hop has only been around for the last 60 years. There is a long list of dance forms closely tied to the history of the land and its people. This includes everything from the Haka in New Zealand to the Waltz in Austria to Zulu dancing in Africa.
I’m gonna say it’s safe to bet the average person does not immediately think of that when dance first comes to mind. Let’s get back to the three common phrases about dance: love it, hate it, or can’t do it.
“I LOVE DANCE”
For those who love dance, of course, I’m right there with you. It’s my passion, my inspiration, my livelihood. It’s my way to make positive connections with others and to provide purpose in my life both extrinsically and intrinsically.
I love to dance, to create dance, and watch dance.
Dance appreciation is a huge component of dance, so even if you don’t dance yourself, when you watch a dance performance you have become part of the dance experience. You are supporting the performers by just being present whether it’s at a recital, a sporting event, or a school performance. You are part of the experience of dance when you clap. Not only because you supported the dancers, but you actually moved your hands to make a clapping noise rhythmically. Technically you danced when you moved your own body. Yep, that’s right.
Clapping your hands = dance. So if you ever clapped your hands, you’ve danced.
I could go on and on describing the benefits of dance socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually, but there are already articles published on those topics, so I will move on.
“I HATE DANCE”
For those who hate dance, why? Was it a bad experience with a dance instructor, dance partner, dance class, or dance at school? Did someone laugh at you or make you feel uncomfortable? If so, I’m truly sorry. No one deserves that. I beg of you, please try again. Just like with many activities, sometimes you need to find the right fit. Everyone has different interests within dance, so it is imperative you find the right dance genre for you, the right instructor who caters to your needs, and overall the right environment to allow you to feel comfortable trying out new moves. Maybe you don’t want to dance in public, then dance video games like Just Dance are more your thing. Even as a dance teacher and someone who has danced my whole life, it took me a long time to find the style of dance that best suits me. When I discovered latin dance I knew I found my niche. I love the music, the social interaction, and specific venues where I can go and let loose on the dance floor.
Remember dance is not just physically dancing yourself, it is about the experience as an audience member, even from the comfort of your own home.
If you truly hate dance it means you are stating that you don’t enjoy watching dancing at Super Bowl halftime, award show performances, youtube, instragram, tiktok, even memes you send back and forth with friends. Nowadays dance is everywhere in social media and for those who claim to hate dance, are you really telling me you don’t enjoy any of that?!
When my students at school find out they have to be in a dance class immediately they tell me how they hate it. Really they fear dance. It is much easier to say you hate something, than to admit you have a fear of trying and looking foolish.
“I CAN’T DANCE”
The most common statement I hear: “I can’t dance”. This usually means a person has difficulty finding rhythm in music, keeping tempo, or is clumsy when they move their bodies. While all of this might be true about a person, in actuality if they move their body, they are dancing. Athletes playing sports are dancers without music using coordination, technique, skill, mind-body connection to manipulate the movement of their bodies.
The most common statement I hear is “I have two left feet.” No you don’t, come on now.
I recognize it is just an expression, but despite all my work with people in hospitals, psych wards, and specifically with individuals with physical challenges, I’ve never met anyone who actually has two left feet. (If there is someone out there who does have two left feet, I sincerely apologize, this is not directed at you).
The “two left feet” idiom translates to the awkwardness of dancing. If we are being completely honest at some point or another every dancer has had an awkward moment. A mistake learning choreography, a clumsy moment during rehearsal, a hairpiece gone awry during a performance, we’ve all been there. We’ve had our fair share of awkward and embarrassing moments through dance over the years. The important thing is how we bounce back, how we get back up, how we push through and keep moving as if nothing went wrong.
Why is it so simple as to love something, hate something, or immediately criticize one’s own ability to perform a certain skill? I don’t get that. I’ve tried many new things in my life, some new skills as recently as within the last year. Even if I have an unpleasant experience I rarely decide immediately how I feel about the particular activity. Life should be about continuously exploring new ideas, activities, preferences, and keeping an open mind as much as possible.
Keep on moving, creating, and watching to help ensure dance remains a part of the future.