Dancing with Words

Photo by Damir Mijailovic on Pexels.com

Dance brings me great pleasure. I love most styles of moving to music, from ballet to ballroom. I stumbled awkwardly into dancing as a teenager, but it slowly and surely became integral to my adult identity. Pre-pandemic, I danced hours each week between classes, practice and social parties. If I had only known that last tango class in March was heralding a prolonged reality of social distancing and staying close to home. I would have lingered longer, savoured it more deeply. Danced long into the evening like nobody was watching and hugged everyone in sight. The abrupt interruption felt jarring, and somewhat destabilizing.

Dance is integral to my mental health. After a day of giving to others, moving to music reconnects me to some primal source of emotional release and renewal. I try to compensate with walking or running outside, music streaming through ear buds. I have turned my yoga practice into a rhythmic flow. Yet neither activity can quite replace the whole body letting-go and letting-in experience of dance.

Dance is social. Moving to music in my living room feels hollow, even with a partner. I miss the sense of community and belonging, the expansiveness of the dance space, and the emotional and physical connection with like-minded beings. I miss learning from other dancers, and simply picking up on their energy. Life feels muted without the push and pull of Argentine Tango, the sensual expressiveness of Rumba, the graceful, nostalgic rise and fall of a stream of couples waltzing, the energizing fun of swing and jive, the childlike joy of clomping around in tap shoes, the steely grace of ballet, and the explosive synergy of a roomful of people grooving in time to live music. Dance is so very human.

The shadow side of dance is that it provides the perfect, compulsive distraction from inner work. As my withdrawal symptoms subside, the absence of social touch and rhythm is an opportunity for more “being” and exploration of deeper realms of consciousness. I can finally take the time to bring written expression to my experience.

The dance floor will still be there, I hope, when this pandemic is over. I anticipate returning with a mended shoulder and renewed appreciation and abandon. In the meantime, I will dance with words.

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