Listening with Your Whole Body

I very nearly failed dance in college. I got a notice of concern at mid-terms, which was college-speak for “if you continue the way you are going, you will fail the class.” It was my junior year, I had never so much as gotten a C in anything in my college career, and I was utterly panicked over the whole thing. I had no idea it was coming; I thought I was doing pretty well in that class.

There were a lot of problems combining to lead to my notice of concern and eventual scraping of a C, but the fundamental one was a massive disconnect between me and the teacher about what dance was. He wanted us to hear our internal rhythms and was always after us to dance without the music. It doesn’t work like that for me.

Dancing is listening to the music with my whole body.

I knew that in my junior year of college. But I was already starting to lose it by the end of the class, and the events of the next couple of years crushed the sparkle right out of me until I had forgotten. Dancing became something that I only did socially… and then something that I stopped doing altogether, even though I had once loved it in all its forms.

Just recently, I started a new program of productivity (and I cannot recommend Habitica enough for productivity problems) and part of that productivity is exercise. For my exercise, I do two energetic songs and one that I really want to dance to even if it’s less energetic. (“Only the Music” by Heather Alexander, with its suitability for the air waltz, is one I love for this, even if it won’t get my heart rate up.) I’ve been dragging myself through this for a bit, thinking about other things for a while, until I put on Adele’s song “Hello” and realized that the music is so different from the words that dancing to the rhythm of one puts you at odds with the other, and found myself off in a mental comparison to a medieval dance where you are supposed to be dancing to the baseline because the melody is improvised, but in this age of recorded music no one actually does.

Then today I tried not thinking about anything but the music and just zeroing in on it. I found that when I do it like that, it has an effect on my mood– I was laughing by the end of my dance, at myself and the music and the world, because this actually is fun. I’m not dragging myself through this every day just because I need to get my heart rate up, despite the fact that I do need to get my heart rate up. Dancing is moving meditation, easier in many ways than the sitting still kind. If you can manage to let go enough to just lose yourself in the music, it’s fun.

I forgot the thing I said long ago to my dance professor. Dancing is listening to the music with my whole body. And there’s probably another whole post in picking that apart and making an example of how education is destroying people’s creativity, but for the moment– I’m dancing again.