But I loved to travel and so went on as many youth exchange programs as possible. Up With People was a program where I could travel the world being part of an inspiring Broadway-style musical as us youths volunteer in each of the host communities. The problem was, I never even danced once in my life.
That didn’t stop me. Up With People administration told me, “No problem. We’ll teach you everything you need to know.” That was good enough for me!
Although I was removed early from the program for health reasons, when I returned home, I had a new found passion for dance.
I took private lessons in ballroom dancing, Latin dancing, and jazz dancing (musical style). I even showcased a choreographed routine to a bunch of family and friends and soon discovered that dance is personal development.
Dance Is Personal Development
So many courses, like cooking, or learning a foreign language, are forms of personal development. While fun and play are associated more to dancing, it too, is a personal development modality.
But how? Many classes teach the content, but not necessarily the lessons behind the content. That’s what we do here at Ordinary Words. So why is dance such a good idea as a means of personal development?
1. Learning the Rules is Fair Game
Every modality of transformation has its own sets of rules and procedures, protocols and rituals. In every journey we look like a fool when we start, and finding our way first starts with understanding the landscape. What are the rules of your dance?
2. Emotion is Created by Motion
Breathing is the foundation to meditation, yoga, exercise, and being present. Dance allows us to have varied patterns of breathing, flowing us into different states of consciousness. Dancing can be therapeutic because it shifts our physiology and biochemistry.
3. We Communicate With Physical Structure
Non-verbal communication is usually not a consciously developed skill for many people. Yet non-verbal communication is the vast portion of communication. How is our posture? Are we mirroring? This awareness is beneficial in everyday life.
4. Touching is Half the Fun
While sex may be everywhere in some cultures, authentic touch is sometimes considered inappropriate, unprofessional, or just politically incorrect. Science tells us that we need touch, and dancing is a beautiful way to give and receive touch in varying tensions and styles.
5. There Are So Many Kinds of Dance…
So, do you think you can dance? Even that television show doesn’t showcase all forms of dance. If you Wiki it, you’ll find hundreds! Don’t judge all dance if you don’t like one form. There’s something for everyone, and maybe contact improvisational dance is for you? (See below.)
6. Intimacy & Connection
There’s obviously a certain closeness in many forms of dance. There’s also a lot of trust to support one another and synchronize every move together. There’s a special relationship that can bond between the same partners over years of dancing together, or with two strangers who are completely free.
7. Co-Creation in Real-Time
While there may be rehearsals, there’s nothing like the real thing, or “live before an audience”. What do we do when things don’t go the way we thought they would? How do we deal with setbacks or people missing in action? These are not just the lessons of dance, but the lessons of life.
8. Strengthen Empathy & Compassion
The better we know our partner, the better the dance can be. We’re not just dancing with another body, we’re dancing with another soul and spirit. How can we support them in the dance? Who are they, and who can we become together?
9. Group Dynamics & Collective Consciousness
Even in partner-only dances, there may be many partners on the dance floor and we need to make sure not to hit them! (Particularly for someone like me!) With many dancers, the dance floor can become one conscious entity. Whether choreographed or improvised, something gets created that’s bigger than the sum of all the dancers.
10. Physical Exercise & Mindfulness
We can definitely work up a sweat dancing! It doesn’t feel like exercise when it’s fun. Unless, of course, if we allow that mind chatter to come up. The structure of the dance allows us to strive to be present in every moment of the dance, because that’s what makes the dance most beautiful. Dancing improves flexibility, reduces stress, and increases energy.
11. Timing is Everything
In my first jazz dancing lesson, my teacher Michelle said, “Stop! Stop!” And then she said that before we learn to move, we must learn how to find the beat of the music. Rhythm is essential, and mine needed a lot of work. I’m glad I later discovered contact improvisational dance, where I couldn’t make a mistake.
12. A Spiritual Awakening
Just like how not everybody bliss’s out with meditation, not everybody finds dancing spiritual. But some do. Some find it very healing, therapeutic, and transformative. Some people couldn’t live without it. What does your heart say? Let’s at least dance the night away!
We Just Never Know…
Although I was trying to get as vast of experience of dance as possible, it wasn’t until many years later that I discovered contact improvisational dance. In fact, I had to hear about it several times from several different people before I finally checked it out.
A contact jam is a time and place to improvise movement in contact with oneself, others, and the environment.
I’m glad I checked it out. I found a community of people who love authentic movement and dance from all over the world! That’s right–did you know they have annual dance festivals just for contact improvisational dance? Our regional contact dance jam is coming up. Check out the video and details below.
Contact Improvisational Dance
Watch this quick video for a glimpse of contact dance.
Come Join Us!
Ontario Regional Contact Improv Jam 2016
– Ordinary Play
Let’s love the world together…
[)anish /|hmed, blind visionary