When I was younger I felt that I wasn’t good enough to be considered a “dancer”. I felt like everyone was much better than me, I wasn’t able to do certain moves as flawlessly as others and I felt like I could not get any better than I was when I was 12 years old. But when I was home all alone I would listen to music and find myself just dancing along and by the end of the night I felt happier, free, and content; not because it helped with my technique or growing my skill set, but it made me feel really good. While it may seem like dancing is hard and you need to have a flawless technique to be considered a “dancer” to others, I have come to realize that dance helped me in more ways than I thought. Dance is a form of self-care, and I want to share how I reshaped my understanding of dancing for self-care and how EVERYONE truly can dance.
[TW: discussions of Body Image]
1. There is no such thing as a bad dancer
That feeling of not getting certain moves right away, or fumbling over my feet constantly when learning a new dance really made me feel like I wasn’t going to be able to get it. I felt like I was the only one without rhythm, my counting was always off, and I felt embarrassed for not getting it right away. But I soon realized that I was paying way too much attention to the way I looked or how I would execute a certain move without actually just listening, enjoying and feeling a piece of music. Dancing for yourself doesn’t require rhythm, or perfect counting; it just requires enjoying yourself in that moment and moving freely. Having free reign on what you do is what makes dance a great form of therapy. Next time you’re having a mini dance concert in your bedroom (don’t worry I do all the time hehe) blast your top 5 favourite songs and just go for it but at the end of the last song you will be feeling content in the moment.
2. Every body is a dance body [TW: Talks of body image]
When you think of a dancer you often think of someone who is super athletic, conventionally thin, and beautiful. I grew up with this notion that to be a “dancer” there was only one strict look. I tried to follow this narrative with how I exercised, ate, and trained, and this took a toll on my body image and why I was dancing in the first place. When I was around 16 years old I started dancing at a new studio and met all sorts of new amazing people. I came to quickly realize that this narrative I was growing up with was not true at all. In reality, dance is for everyone, no matter what size, height, gender, range of mobility or ethnicity you are. Dance is one of those sports that you don’t have to dedicate your entire life learning to feel good while doing it—you can dance for yourself any time and use it as a performance of self-love. Don’t get caught up on fancy terms, Just have fun, enjoy and get lost in the experience. That is why you started dancing in the first place—to enjoy yourself and have fun connecting to a song.
3. You don’t have to follow a choreographed piece to dance
Most dance classes are equipped to follow a certain format – arrive, warm up, learn a piece of choreo, and then perform it either in small groups or all together. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this (following a routine or format is good to learn, and adapt). This is not the only way to dance. Dancing can be freeing. If you are looking to feel confident when dancing or to express yourself with the lyrics of a song, you can do so right then and there. This is called freestyling or improv. Improving is a great way to get your creative juices flowing, allowing yourself to immerse completely in a piece of music and letting yourself figure it out along the way. You don’t have to worry about perfect timing, execution of a move or literally anything else. This way you are really just dancing to dance, not for any other reason but to feel good about yourself in that moment.
4. You can use dance to truly express how you feel
I was never terrified of dancing, I was scared of looking foolish or messing up while doing so in front of others. But no one ever is perfect after their first attempt at anything. When I found myself feeling off. I turned to dance. I would turn to dance when I was unhappy, frustrated or needed a break from reality. I would pretend I am in my own little world when dancing in my tiny bedroom and let myself have a conversation with myself through the music I chose to listen to and how I chose to dance. Sometimes it would be with “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne or “Hotel California” by the Eagles or “Breathe (2am) by Anna Nalick, all completely different genres, but all connected to how I would feel at that moment. I would no longer cared how stupid I looked or how weird my moves were, but I would enjoy expressing myself truly. If there is one thing I want to say is don’t be afraid of looking stupid, looking stupid means your pushing yourself creatively and physically to new circumstances and subconsciously learning along the way, all while not having to think twice about how you feel. Expressing everything through movement is what makes dancing self-care.
5. Dancing will make you more confident outside of dance
Like I said above, when I started dancing I was terrified of how I looked. My body and my brain were not connecting and it felt like all of my limbs were flying everywhere. While this felt like it went on forever, I started learning within the studio. I realized that my vulnerability got me out of my comfort zone therefore making me more confident outside of the studio. I ended each (disastrous) class with one thing running through my mind “you pushed through and it wasn’t as bad as you thought!” That bled into my life outside of dance, it uplifted my courage to network within my professional life, how to try making new friends, and in general the way I approach new situations. Feeling vulnerable in my dancing in turn made me feel confident, because I knew I was going to get there eventually if I allowed myself to do so; and when I did I was going to be self- assured, and a self-assured confident person is a happy person :)
If you read this full post through, first off thank you :)), but more importantly I hope you connected with it in any way shape or form. Dance is an experience of joy, a form of expression and made to make you feel better about yourself. There is a reason why you started dancing. It might be to feel more confident, to express yourself creatively or to just have fun. Whatever the reason is, dancing is a great escape and form of self-care. I want to let you know that you are fully capable of learning how to dance, and that it is for everyone. If you would like to learn with us, check out what we have to offer here, and how to get registered here. We hope to see you dancing with us soon :))
The STU Arts Dance Team.