i’ve always loved dance for its power of expression, outlet for creativity, motivation to be active, and because it is the instinctual response to great music. but lately i have come to appreciate dance for a new reason.
“dance first, think later, it’s the natural order.” ~samuel beckett
this fall i finally enrolled in a few dance classes at the arts academy near my house as i have intended to for two years. since leaving the childhood and teenage era of thrice-weekly lessons and multiple performances, i have participated in a handful of dance pursuits. there was the university ballet course i enrolled in one semester, the hip-hop class packed with college students at the studio near the university, the modern dance and tap classes for adults i discovered in The City after landing my first job, and the ballroom lessons i pretty much forced my sweet boyfriend to join me in.
the urge to dance never leaves, even after the easily available outlets have disappeared. so the past few years my dancing has been confined to my house with the music blaring. until now.
“there are short cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.” ~vicki baum
the thing about dancing is that it is very difficult be unhappy while you are moving in an expressive way. even if evoking sorrow or longing or another heart-wrenching emotion, dancing seems to relieve rather than intensify those feelings. and if the dance bursts from an elated mood, then the movement only enhances the good humor.
the particular phenomenon that i have noticed more clearly since starting these classes is the influence dancing has on my mood when i am neither happy nor sad: the familiar “blahs.” routine days of work, obligations, and errands can easily result in the “i’m-tired-and-don’t-want-to-do-anything” attitude. however, on the days i drag myself off the couch and into the studio, i always come home cheerful. it’s not the jazz steps or the lyrical music—it’s the movement.
i realize a chemical reaction occurs in your brain that heightens your mood anytime you are involved in strenuous physical activity, but that is not really the effect i’m talking about. even when i don’t break a sweat or raise my heart rate considerably, dancing is an instant pick-me-up. just try it. i’m serious. right now, stand up and dance. i don’t care if there’s music, i don’t care if you feel awkward, i don’t care if you think you don’t have rhythm. whether you wiggle your hips, shimmy your shoulders, or simply tap your toes, move. i bet you’re smiling now, even if it’s just because you’re giggling at how silly you must look.
“there is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.” ~edwin denby
i do recognize that there are many wonders in life that have the virtue of lifting spirits: a child’s laugh, an outing with friends, a thoughtful card, a warm hug…but today i am grateful for movement, for it’s ability to elevate my mood no matter what my disposition.