On Dancing (and Joy)
When I was a kid, I was a great dancer.
I learned moves from watching Michael Jackson and Madonna videos. I just loved the free feeling I felt while I was dancing. In fact, I was so spirited with my dance moves that family members would often ask me to dance to music at parties when I was a kid, just so they could watch me fling my body around with glee and attempt to moonwalk. I was a good dancer.
I danced like I was from another planet. Though it was Michael Jackson inspired, there wasn’t any particular style to it. It wasn’t jazz, or tap, or ballroom. I didn’t know what those things were. I didn’t even think about it. Dancing came as naturally as breathing.
At a club once in Montreal at age 7, I hit the dance floor at a restaurant where I was eating with my family. I must’ve been pretty enthused, because two female Canadian college students asked me if I’d dance with them. I was a great dancer.
As I got older, dance was a huge part of my life, but not in the official sense. I did an aerobics type dance class after school when I was 10 or so, but never really enrolled in any kind of dance lessons. Though I may have been the only boy in the class, I looked forward to it every week.
In high school, I became interested in singing and auditioned for a musical. I was expected to learn choreography and execute it properly for the first time. It wasn’t the body flinging experience I’d had when I was younger. For the first time in my life, I was a bad dancer. My moves as a child were just born of pure joy, but they weren’t dancing. This was real dance. And I was atrocious.
It got worse when I tried to audition for a local musical theater troupe. The reason for their denial was understandable: my singing was fine, they told me, but I needed more dance lessons. I was, again, a bad dancer.
And in college, my passion for dance extinguished at this point, I was made fun of various times when I’d dance in public.
I hated to dance, at least in public.
I stopped dancing at weddings, at parties, and at concerts. I damn near refused to do the Hora sometimes. It didn’t bother me that I’d stopped dancing in public because my original passion for dancing was strictly to entertain myself. It was simply a way to express joy.
And that’s the thing about stealing joy. None of the people who discouraged me from dancing ever meant to steal joy, but it happened anyway. Drip by drip until there was nothing left. How much joy have we stolen from each other just because the manifestation of that joy didn’t conform to the standard?
I’ve since recovered a bit. I’ll occasionally dance if the spirit moves me, or if I’m intoxicated, or if I’m in the presence of people I love and trust. Whenever I do it, I take a big breath and figure that’s probably better to let the spirit bring me into a state of dance than it is to keep the rhythm locked away in some kind of safe in my heart.
But no choreography. That’s for technicians and artists. I’m simply a human who needs to move.
PS – And if joy has indeed been stolen from you, or you have stolen it, there is a way to give and get it back. I’ll elaborate in another post.