Dance. According to Dictionary.com, “To move one’s feet or body, or both, rhythmically in a pattern of steps, especially to the accompaniment of music. To leap, skip, etc., as from excitement or emotion; move nimbly or quickly.” Also the subject of this first post in November on thankfulness.
Since college, I have learned something surprising about myself.
No, not that I am a serious introvert or that I dislike doing my own laundry or that I would be lost without a planner (though these things are true).
I have learned that I actually like to dance.
If you knew me in high school, this would shock you.
In high school, I put on extra eyeliner for school dances and bobbed along to the thumping Top 40 hits, but I lived by the mantra of “I can’t dance.” The aimless booty-shaking and ab-rolling confused me. How did they know what to do? Did they not feel idiotic? Why did they not look as awkward as I did?
It wasn’t always this way.
As a little kid, I took dance lessons along with basketball and piano and other pursuits I actually stuck with long-term.
In third grade, I had some sass. I also had some swanky dance pants, which made me the coolest eight year old ever.
Then came the preteen years, where I wore feathery purple headdresses and learned tap and jazz and ballet to “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and “RESPECT” and beat out “fl-ap, opp, same, fl-ap, opp, same” with shiny tap shoes.
In these stages of life, I didn’t know if I was a good dancer. I don’t think I cared. According to my mom, I was precise. That word about sums me up as an elementary schooler.
There was no need for precision at high school dances. I was a little lost.
Then I went to college and heard about swing dancing, where you learn actual moves with actual patterns. This put me back in my precision comfort zone and made me a little happier about dancing. (The jazzy music helped, too.)
And then last week came Nostalgia Night, the annual event for my dorm where each hall choreographs a dance. Cue self-consciousness and minor agony. RAs like me are supposed to lead these things, but this felt way out of my element. I can be athletic, but not in a graceful way (ie: running a straight line, posting up in basketball). I can be sassy in wordplay, not hip-rolling. I don’t mind talking in front of crowds (I’m going to be a teacher, after all), but I hate performing in front of them.
Preparation for this night was extensive. A wonderful friend choreographed five and a half minutes of groovy moves. I made four terrifying videos of me dancing all by myself. We practiced for hours in an end lounge. I pretended that knew what I was doing.
Then as I practiced our dance, faking confidence and really rehearsing enthusiasm, I realized something: when I wasn’t freaked out about forgetting the moves and looking like an idiot, dancing was actually fun.
So last week I put on a lot of teal eyeshadow and strapped a ribbon across my forehead and went out in front of our student center shook my groove thing. (P.S. Relax. That’s a song we danced to.)
I don’t know if I looked good. (I am in blissful ignorance since I haven’t seen the recording yet.) I’m trying really hard not to care.
Regardless, I did have a ton fun.
So right now (even though it’s a week later) I am thankful for dance.
It’s reminding me that sometimes, I get so caught up in getting the moves right that I forget that life should not be a lockstep of emotionless calculation. Instead, it should be joyful and expressive. I might forget the moves. I might twirl left instead of right. But I can keep going. I can laugh a little and make stuff up. I can remember that enthusiasm and heart matter more than perfection and precision.
I’ve come a long way since high school dancing days. I might even think high school dances were great now.
But that’s probably taking things a little too far.