I started dancing ten years ago when the person I was dating dragged me into swing. I wanted something more sensual, like salsa, but swing it was (she was persistent), and after a month of struggle, I finally got the basic step. Then I was hooked, and dance started to fill my life. I changed from a science to a performing arts track while in university, started a swing club, danced whenever and wherever there was dancing to be done. I never dove into serious formal training, but I’ve danced off and on ever since. Anytime I had periods of diminished happiness, I always realized later that I had suddenly stopped dancing as often as usual. The more I danced, the happier I was!
Then I met Diane at a swing dance. Our connection grew, on and off the dance floor, and three years later we were married. We decided to make dancing into a part time career, so now dance is also work. We teach almost daily, we choreograph and perform together, and my old breathless sense of dancing for joy has been…tempered…by the sense that I must dance, or at least teach dance…in order to make a living.
Most of the time this is perfectly fine. It’s great, actually! I get to teach other people how to dance, and hopefully to discover the same kind of joy I first found when I learned swing. Performing is also wonderful when it goes well, and I love the process of creating new work. I also really like being completely focused while in a dance class, pushing my body to do new and wonderful things as fast as I can learn them, and the time always passes way too quickly. Dance can be hard work, but it’s work I really like.
And then I stop and realize how far I’ve come from my initial pure pleasure of moving. I don’t dance swing or blues now without thinking about what I’m doing. I don’t often just let go. I’m constantly reminded of my need for more technique, more training, more vocabulary. How long has it been since I’ve gone to a house blues party and danced the night away without thinking about anything at all? Too long.
If I worked at an office job, I would need to find ways to revive my motivation for and interest in my work, whether by creating meaningful connections with my coworkers, developing new projects, pursuing new training, or even trying a different schedule once and a while. Fortunately, I can actually choose to do these things since I’m my own boss. Yet I wonder if these things would even be quite enough. I imagine I would probably need to go a little further, and try to get closer to the heart of what drew me to such work in the first place. I would need to nourish a sense of play, exploration, and discovery. I would need a way to let go a little, and allow some unordered, unpredictable variables into an otherwise mundane routine.
With dance, that means going out and just dancing, full on, all out, with complete abandon. Easy to imagine, hard to do unless I find a time, a venue, an occasion.
So I’m looking for one. Waiting. Ready to make dance joyful again.