I want to preface this blog by saying that I am not a dancer. I went to a week long summer dance camp when I was 6 or 7 years old and that is where my professional training ends. The only other dance I do is my crazy, cleaning dancing I do with my roommates when we decide to clean our rooms.
During the 2016 Oasis camp, I spent the early half of the week working with the Oasis staff and house moms assisting in a mindfulness workshop for them. However, that finished on Wednesday so that the moms could have some time off, which meant on Thursday I had no idea what to do with my afternoon time. I asked Amelia what I could help with and she tells me, “Everything is fine right now, why don’t you come with me to Kati’s large group dance class?”
My response inside my mind: “Uhhhh, no. No, I will not be coming to dance class. I will not be dancing at all, ever, in front of anyone in a dance class. So, definitely no. Thanks for asking, but no.”
Out of my mouth: “Yeah, sure! Why not?”
I had been doing the group dance we learned in large group every day, but that was a lot less intimidating than a class. No one would notice me in the huge group dance, but a class was smaller. I realize now I probably could have said no to Amelia and found something else to do, but I hate to turn down a new experience, so I went anyways.
Kati’s dance workshop was set up so that after every 4 counts, you’d have to come up with a new dance move. After the warm-up, the first activity started with 4 people creating different movements to lead the entire workshop. I bet you can guess who was picked to be one of those 4 people…
*hint hint – it was me*.
Now I know that dance is good for people. Dance and movement therapy is a growing field in psychology. According to Butler, Snook, and Buck (2015), “Community dance is capable of challenging perceptions of what is considered to be dance, and it enables an aesthetic to emerge where people can redefine who can and cannot dance and challenge notions of what dance is”. That quote is what Kati’s dance class was all about. It was not about being a skillful dancer, but about letting go and having fun.
I didn’t want to be the one everyone was watching, but I knew that if I let all my nerves show, it would set a tone for the girls to feel like they needed to feel self-conscious and awkward too. And it would have killed me to see them feel like they’re anything less than beautiful creations of God. Then, as I had that thought, I realized that I should be treating myself the same way. I’m God’s creation too. So I powered through my discomfort and I was embarrassing in the most fun way. I acted silly and I didn’t care what anyone thought. All I wanted was the girls thinking that they could dance and be silly too.
The next part of the workshop was in a group of 4 girls, each taking turns creating different moves on the count of 4. Then finally, we got partnered up one on one. The girl I partnered with seemed somewhat unsure of herself. She had the shy kind of smile that I recognized as apprehensive, but interested. I tried to give her my best look that said “I understand the nerves, but we can get through this together and manage to have fun too.” And we did. We laughed, danced, switched chairs quickly, and even accidentally ran into each other a few times.
Butler et al., looked at community dance in relation to cancer patients, but I think if they had expanded their study, they would have found similar results in girls like the ones at camp. They found that “…the simplicity of the gestures and movements offered a way of making something meaningful out of their shared journey” (2015). We might not be professional dancers, but we were having fun together. And after we finished I looked around, it wasn’t just me and my partner. All the girls were having fun and Kati was beaming with pride just watching them.
Am I going to drop everything and go join the nearest dance class or quit school to pursue becoming a prima ballerina? Definitely not. But will I take the joy and confidence I learned and apply that to other new and scary things? Yes, I like to think that I will. Even more importantly, I hope the girls take that with them too. Kati gave us 2 life lessons at the beginning of class. 1) Cry when you want to cry and 2) Ask questions when you don’t understand something. By the end of class, she’d taught us a third life lesson: Dance. Take the chance to try the things that seem scary at first. Later that evening I even tried to learn how to swing dance with some of the other volunteers. I haven’t nailed “The Pretzel” yet, but maybe with a little more practice! Being willing to take the risk of failing or looking silly in the spirit of joy is the most I could hope for any of us. I named this blog after Lee Ann Womack’s song, I Hope You Dance, because it’s the epitome of what Kati taught us and what God hopes for us.
“Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance/
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance/
I hope you dance.”
-Lee Ann Womack