For weeks I’ve been feeling a pull back to dancing. I’ve always loved dancing but somehow I forgot.
Some of my biggest passions in life are writing, music, art and if you’d asked me as a child or even early into my twenties, I would have said dancing.
Until today I hadn’t danced in a carefree way in a long time. Life has taken me somewhere dark and dancing has felt all shades of wrong to me. But these last few weeks have been throwing dance based freedom in my path. I’ve seen people dancing their grief. I’ve had friends pull me to them and teach me to salsa (or as much as one can be taught in 5 minutes). I’ve talked about dancing with friends and how I miss it. I’ve watched Meredith and Cristina dance it out on Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve felt the need in my bones. It’s all been pointing to dance and how freeing it is.
So today I danced. I danced to the majority of a song, but I couldn’t get through it all, even though I was alone and nobody would have seen. My mind felt like my body was doing something wrong. But my body was saying something else.
I listened to what my body was telling me. That this felt good. This felt freeing. This felt like in a small, barely noticeable way something was shifting in me. So later I decided to press shuffle on a playlist and dance for a whole song.I did it. I danced. I danced to a whole song.
For the first minute I felt like an imposter in my own body. I felt all manner of uncomfortable feelings and could hear my mind telling me to stop, to look at myself, to realise that this was ridiculous and unneeded. But I pushed through and by two minutes in I was dancing – really dancing. And by 3 minutes I was enjoying it. The freedom came in.
I sat with it a while after. And decided – I’m going to dance every day. And as I write most days, that’s my life, I’m going to document it as its unlikely I’ll have the same experience every day.
Here’s my challenge, an experiment of dance and words and moving –
Dance. Write. Now.
Dance, everyday, for 21 days. Feel it, notice, write it out.
Why 21 days?
They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit (I don’t know the science, but I’ve heard it from a variety of sources, so I’m going with it). I want to embrace this challenge, this experiment, but I’m not sure what it will feel like and more might be too much, so I’m starting with 21 days.
Why is it a challenge if you love to dance?
I am a person who struggles daily with mental health problems – depression, anxiety, PTSD and they come with physical symptoms too. I have a history of trauma stored in my body and the fears and vulnerabilities that come with this, in and for my body, are overwhelming sometimes. The impacts have been huge. As such I have many body issues that I can barely talk about, let alone begin to tackle physically.
The thought of body centred therapies scare the hell out of me right now, as does joining some sort of yoga or exercise or movement based class. Tapping into my body issues is daunting, even beginning to talk about them is not easy either, there’s so many of them.
But with my long lost love of dance, I’m going to shake it up, shake it out, dance it out. Or just dance.
And aside from these issues, standing there, beginning to dance, on your own or in your house, for no reason at all, other than because you want to dance, can feel uncomfortable for us all sometimes. That’s challenging in itself for most people, no matter what the reason. To start with anyway…
What do you want to achieve?
Nothing and everything.
I have no rules here, apart from – dance. Dance it out.
Guidelines, yes (see below), but no rules. It’s not going to be simple, some days dancing to even one song might be a battle and if I don’t manage it everyday, well that’s okay.
I’m going to try listening to my body in this. My body knows. In spite of all of my issues I trust this. I know this. My body knows this, and it will know what to do.
I want to dance with, through, in, out of, in the middle of my good, my bad, my sad, my happy, my grief, my joy, my me.
This is an experiment. It’s not new. People have done similar things before. I’m not reinventing the wheel. But it’s an experiment in what it does to me, for me.
And if nothing else, it might put a smile on my face some days or leave me laughing at the ridiculousness of my dance moves.
What if you’re having a day of fatigue and depression or illness?
Let’s face it, as is my life these days, these issues are going to come up within these 21 days (this is my reality right now). Or I might just not feel like dancing. Sometimes it might feel disrespectful to my mood or my grief or my life in that moment to dance. But who said dancing was synonymous with happiness.
I’m dancing anyway.
I’m dancing with my happiness, with my sadness, with my grief, with my laughter, with my tears (if they come), with my life, for my life.
If, for whatever reason, I can’t dance one day – that’s okay. I’m not using this as another way to beat myself up. But that’s not to say that I’m taking this lightly. If my body can, if I can, I will dance. Even if it means dancing in a chair, but my god I’ll be dancing it out with my arms and my head and my shoulders and my shimmy!
What’s the writing bit about?
I’m a writer, so this bit calls to me. If anyone wants to join in and take this challenge with me, the writing, sharing part might not speak to you. That’s absolutely fine.
But for me, journaling, writing, taking note of what my experiences is a part of this. It could be anything, from how it felt before, what happened during, what emotions came up, how I felt after, the process of pushing through it if it’s not happening naturally, the joy, the frustration.
It might be that I don’t say much, just a Facebook status or a thought or a few words, or it might be that I write a whole essay every day. No rules. But I want to keep a record. So I’ll be using the hashtag #dancewritenow .Guidelines
(for me, and for you if you should choose to join me, though I’m quite prepared for this to be a solo dance)
– Dance to at least 1 song everyday for 21 days.
But really, there’s no rules
– Dance to whatever you want. Press shuffle, pick purposefully, start with the next song on the radio, ask someone to pick for you. Whatever works for you.
– There’s no wrong song – if you want to Shake It Off with Taylor Swift one day and waltz with Chopin the next day, great. Or if rocking it out to Queen everyday is more your style – wonderful.
– Share the songs if you feel moved to – use the hashtag #dancewritenow . What moves you?
– I love music, love love love it. And if you want to share it I’d love to hear what you’re dancing to. It might inspire my songs for the next day (or not – we all have different tastes after all)
– Dance like nobody is watching or dance like everybody is watching.
– If you have two left feet or you’re a professional dancer.
– Any style, any moves, any amount of ridiculousness or style. Just dance.
– Move your arms, move your legs, shake your booty, shake it all. Just move. Just dance.
– Videos – you won’t be seeing me in one, but if you’re joining in, then please feel free to video your dancing. In fact, please share them if you feel called to – I’d love to see them. But I won’t be videoing myself – I’ll be dancing like nobody is watching, because for me, nobody will be watching!
– Dance alone, dance in pairs, dance with a whole group. Tell people, keep it a secret, but please just dance. And if you want to share it’s – #dancewritenow
– If you choose to write then write wherever feels natural – a journal just for yourself, a scrap of paper to keep and gather and throw away after 21 days, a facebook status, a tweet, a blog post – whenever, wherever, with whoever.
– If you want to share – #dancewritenow
– Tell me you’re getting involved. Maybe it will just be me. But if there’s more of us, we can share in the experience. It will unfold and we’ll find a flow with the sharing.
– Dance to one song, but if you want to keep dancing, then keep dancing. There’s no limit. Keep going. Or stop after one song. Notice what makes to you stop, notice the feeling that keeps you going. Or just dance.
– If you miss a day, decide yourself what feels best – add a day on, miss it out, write about why you couldn’t or didn’t, or just miss it out. There are no rules. You only have to listen to yourself and your own body. But please, please don’t beat yourself up or think you’ve failed if you cannot do 21 days. It’s okay. Really and truly. Showing up in your body, in dance is vulnerability in action. I’m in this with you and I might struggle too – it doesn’t come naturally to me to do this. Or it might be the easiest thing in the world for me or for you or for anyone.
– 21 days is up – what now? Let’s see shall we. It could be that 21 days has turned us all into Dancing Queens and we forever dance every day. Or maybe it will be time to stop and just reflect on the past 21 days as an experience in and of itself. No rules. If you want to continue, then do. I might. I might not. This is an experiment. I’ll keep you posted. And if I’m dancing alone, then I’ll be dancing. I’m doing this. I’m dancing it out.
- What else?
– Nothing. Just dance.
– Try to put everything down, your work, your chores, try to just dance and not be sending a quick message or email as you do.
– If you’re thinking all the way through. That’s okay. Notice it, or just think. If you can put down your worries for the length of a song – great. This isn’t a meditation trap or a way to force your mind somewhere or nowhere. But if it becomes a meditation in itself – oh wow. Let’s talk about that experience.
– If you want to sing at the top of your lungs to the song, great. If you want to take in the lyrics and if these are part of the experience for you – write about it, what happened when you heard them, what did they mean to you as you danced? Or ignore every lyric and just move with the beat or move to your own beat.
Dance it out.
Dance it all out.
Dance. Write. Now.
If you’re joining me and you want to share your experience – #dancewritenow
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