What you need to know:
- From as early as I could remember, I loved to watch dancing shows and was happy to do the occasional jig when no-one was observing my clumsy efforts.
- And so I contemplated which dance to learn.
- But dancing is no fun alone, and so I enlisted five friends, who like me, had more enthusiasm than skill to join.
Last year, I managed to tick one of my bucket list items. Learning to dance. From as early as I could remember, I loved to watch dancing shows and was happy to do the occasional jig when no-one was observing my clumsy efforts. But gliding like a ballerina, waltzing like a princess or just twerking like my ancestors were difficult skills. But I could learn. Or at least, I could try.
And so I contemplated which dance to learn. The elegant ballroom, the vigorous salsa, the hectic cha cha or the funny fox trot? Eventually I settled on the sensuous Kizomba, in part because it had a lot of African moves mixed with some Latin ones.
But dancing is no fun alone, and so I enlisted five friends, who like me, had more enthusiasm than skill to join. I didn't know what to make of the young male teacher who showed up to class on that first day. I worried that he would throw in the towel after one session and declare our stiff bones irredeemable. How he could put up with us going left every time he yelled, 'right!' was beyond me. Never mind the number of times we stepped on his toes or almost brought him down with the weight of one too many tea-time mandazis.
The dance sessions lasted half a year, and while I found a poise and litheness I did not know I possessed, what ultimately stayed with me were the lessons on life I stumbled upon. Here they are:
Stand tall: As a woman who loves her heels, there were instances where I towered over the instructor when we partnered. I found myself subconsciously "adjusting" by slouching to mirror his height. He would stop and say, “Stay tall. Do not slouch. Let me rise up to meet you!”
And right there was my first ‘Aha’ moment. How often in life do we lower our standards or expectations so that we do not stand out or stand up in a certain situation? We would rather blend in than stand out.
This is what Marrianne Williamson describes in her book as ‘playing small.’ She writes, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” If standing tall is about being who we are authentically, it is also about being confident in who we are. Regardless of one’s height, there is a certain edge that comes with squaring your shoulders and rising to meet life, instead of cowering in its presence.
Look out for the cues: The music cues you. When you really listen, the music tells you what to do.
Similarly, when dancing with a partner, you have to be open to their cues. This taught me to really listen to people, to watch for the nuances of their next moves, to interpret where they want to go.
As we go through life, we come across cues from the environment, our bodies and others. Our bodies tell us when something is wrong. A friend’s change of tone can signal to us that she is going through a difficult moment. A change in weather can cue us to change our disposition. Life speaks in whispers. We must learn to listen.
Be a team player: While some dances are solo efforts, most are team sports. It does take two to tango. Sometimes, it takes more. In every dance, someone must take the lead while the other must follow. And while one dancer may be more skilled than the other, it is always the goal that they must flow and look good together. If only we approached life with the desire of not just shining as individuals but excelling as teams. American psychologist Allan Fromme remarked, “People achieve more as a result of working with others than against them.” Teams have the ability to achieve more, at a faster pace, and more efficiently, than individuals.
Be passionate: The best dancers, at least the ones we enjoy watching, are usually the ones who are most passionate. Life asks that we bring a sense of passion, enthusiasm, energy and zeal to it.
Dance like no-one is watching: Life asks that we not worry too much about what others think. Life requires that we are willing to make mistakes and learn. Life demands that we risk something. So enjoy the journey. And dance.