Everything I Needed To Know About Life I Learned Dancing

Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

“Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.” — Don Miguel Ruiz

Shadows flickered across the trampled dust, these figures moving rhythmically around the roaring bonfire. The pulse of the hide hewn drums driving the dancers into ecstatic frenzy. Tonight they danced, beneath the bejeweled starry heavens before the spirits, to bring about a successful hunt, to help bring the food their tribe so needed. The dancers felt the passion of the wild beasts that would sustain them, their blood coursing hot and fiery through their veins. The whole of tribe gathered around to watch these men in their dance, swaying to the pounding beats, connected by to common need, their shared goal. One people, they danced for their future. They danced for their past. They danced for life.

In my youth, I subscribed to the foolish notion that guys don’t dance. I was painfully self-conscious, being very overweight, and the idea of being on a dance floor terrified me. One evening, when I was 18 years old, a buddy of mine wanted to go to some top 40/hip hop dance club, mostly to stare creepily at some girl he’d seen the previous weekend. So we went, paid the cover, and hung out at a table watching people dance. After a while, my 18 year old hormones kicked in and I wanted to meet a girl. I asked one if she would dance with me. I asked several girls and was shot down one by one. One finally took pity on me and said yes. I started to dance with her.

Dance isn’t really the word for it. I mostly lurched like a white band on Soul Train, and had about as much game as Puritan at a pool party. But I noticed something after a couple songs — I was having fun. The next weekend I returned to that dance club, unaccompanied. I just proceeded to dance by myself. I started studying the moves of other people and would mimic them. After a while, I found a long lost sense of rhythm I never knew I had, and I really knew how to dance. I added different steps, gained proficiency and soon was being called out on the dance floor to the cheers of others. I became a regular, and started to amass a group of friends… my “posse” if you will. I even had a club nickname in time, Angel, proffered by one friend, eliciting a reaction from another, bestowing that handle on me ever more, “Angel? You don’t dance like no angel!”

Years later, in 2000 after my first marriage ended, I fell into friendship with a group of predominantly polyamorous friends. While not dating any of them, I did motivate the group to go out dancing together. They introduced me to goth-industrial clubs, as well as more fetish themed clubs, and the variety of dance techniques I had increased. Many people have one single style of dancing. I have many, according to the nature of the music and the venue. I can dance to hip hopLatingothindustrial80’s or anything else that’s played. Dancing became spiritual to me, and the dance floor was my church and temple. When I don’t go dancing for too long of a time, I feel out of sorts. I need to be there, in the shadows and flashing lights, feeling the music in my body, stepping, swaying and driving through the melodies and embracing the bass lines.

Last year, I returned to dancing, having been married for years to someone who hated to dance. I realized that what I needed most out of life, I learned via dancing.

While very much a cliche, few cliches are more accurate than dance like no one is watching you. Dancing is about enjoying yourself, and having fun. Every dance floor is surrounded by people watching everyone else dance, and wanting to be out there themselves. Perhaps they are hoping for a partner, or trying to look cool, but even if the person is dancing like Elaine from Seinfeld, that person is inherently cooler and more self confident that an accomplished dancer too fearful of being mocked. The truth of the matter is there may be judgmental people commenting to their friends on your dancing moves, but that only betrays their own feelings if poor self worth and inadequacy. People will claim they can’t dance, or aren’t very good… who the flip cares if you’re “good” as long and you’re happy? I will take the most awkward clumsy dancer who is having a great time over a fly girl/guy who won’t get out there and bust a move.

Not to mention, dancing is sexy as all hell, even if not intending to be. When I go dancing, and a venue plays something too “disco” for the general theme, I’ll break out some Saturday Night Fever action, for no other reason that it’s fun and to make my friends and people around me giggle. Just because I may act the fool doesn’t mean I’m foolish. Confidence and a sense of humor are incredibly sexy, and someone moving to the beat and creating smiles for others is beneficial for everyone. Dancing mirrors your level of confidence.

However, the one component of the politics of dancing that always makes me chuckle is the fear of being the first one out on the dance floor. As scary as it sounds, being the first one out there effectively announces how courageous and confident you are. You also set the stage for the other dancers. A leader steps out there first and shakes their money maker for all to see. Plus, hello, you’re missing out on valuable dancing time, wasting it on the periphery of the floor staring intently at your feet and drink.

This brings me to the reality of what dancing really is, and whether you’re dancing alone or with partners, dancing should be for yourself — to feel alive and express your emotion. I’ve been known to dance, when I lived with my dogs, cranking Who Let The Dogs Outs in the kitchen while they barked and pranced about me. I’ll dance in my car while driving down the street, not concerned about people looking, waving if I see someone laughing at seeing me. I dance slowly on street corners, waiting to cross, to the music emanating from my earbuds. It makes me feel alive, human and vital. Hindu mythology held that Shiva’s cosmic dance drove the cycle of life and rebirth. You can dance to celebrate life and you can dance to mourn death. Even the smallest atoms and the largest celestial objects are in a cosmic dance.

Yet another echo of life is that while dancing, you need to mind your fellow dancers. Sometimes you need to give them room. Sometimes you need to close in tight. If you get to close to a dancer that’s wild, you may get hurt. If you don’t get close enough to a sensual dancer, you may not get another chance. If your friends or loved ones are hurting inside, take them dancing and see how their frowns will turn upside down.

Dancing isn’t about being cool. Dancing isn’t about being desirable. Dancing is about being, living and loving life. I think the world would be a much better place if everybody would dance, and as as a very wise man once said, let’s dance.