“A subtle movement of grace – bringing you closer to god.”
I truly love dancing. It’s a beautiful art form, you shape your body, express your innermost self through movement and connect with others that share the same passion. Dancing is a form of self-discovery. When you dance, you show others a part of yourself – without fear, without self-doubts. At least that is the ideal. Because reality looks a little bit different, not everything in the dance world is made out of gold. Dancing is also competition, judgement, superficiality and a lot of ego.
I used to totally emerge in the dance world. What does that mean? I was taking classes in a dance studio almost all the days of the week, I travelled to dance workshops and events, was part of a professional dance company & performed at different events, I spent almost all my free time with my crew, jamming. I even started my own crew and worked on a charity dance project. So I was 100% involved in the dance world. And I felt great. The truth is you feel awesome, once you are inside. But beware, my friend, if you are outside of this world, and you come to take a peak, you might feel anything but awesome. And this is where I learnt what dancing also means …
When the Ego Comes to Dance
DANCE IS Competition.
I stopped practising dancing for a while, but last week I decided to take a class, for the sake of old times. And God did that feel strange. I entered the dance studio and I felt this very familiar mix of ambition, competition and sweat. When the regulars appeared, I right away felt like an outsider and really wished I was part of this super cool group of badass dancers. I closely watched all the regulars and I saw A LOT OF EGOS.
They were good dancers no question, but I saw how they looked at themselves in the mirror, comparing themselves unconsciously to all the people in the room. It is like you are giving yourself a rating – and you are competing to be as good as or better than the teacher. In a dance class, all the students compete for the teacher’s attention and acknowledgement. What is the biggest achievement in a dance class? Being chosen in the end to perform the choreo – something I really don’t like because honestly, it makes all the other people feel less.
DANCE IS Superficiality.
I remember once I went to an urban class with my sister. She is not part of the dance scene, so she was wearing normal jogging pants and a shirt. After the class, she told me she felt super underdressed and shabby because all those dancers were wearing super hipster fashionable dancing clothes. And it’s true. There exists a dancing fashion style, which also changed over the years. When I started dancing, super loose joggers with a tight shirt and cap was fashionable, later super tight leggings with a baggy shirt, today it’s these super tight short pants that almost reach your knees with a crop top. Times change. But the pressure of looking fly while dancing remains.
And the same thing happens on Instagram. Just look at one of the profiles of these super successful LA dancers, and you will feel like you truly need to upgrade your looks. The dancing industry is closely related to the beauty industry because the system defines what is beautiful. But who defines beauty? Who says you need to follow the newest trends in order to be a successful dancer?
DANCE IS Judgement.
The truth is when you are a newbie that wants to start practising dance, and you enter a class for the first time, you feel judged. You feel that all those dancers are looking at you weirdly thinking “What is that newbie doing here – does she seriously think she can dance?”. You choose a spot in the far end corner of the room (that is where the newbies are meant to be), and you don’t speak a word. Meanwhile, all the professionals are making jokes, adoring themselves in the mirror and showing off all their moves. And god damn, they do remember all those steps super fast.
When I started to go to classes in London, where the level is super high, I felt like I had no idea how to move my body. I was desperately trying to follow the choreo while the girls in the front row were slaying it. Yes, every beginning is difficult. Learning choreography is all about body memory, so once you train your body & brain to remember choreos, with time you will be able to repeat sequences super easy. But damn these girls in the front row make you feel so tiny. Then my question is, are THEY making you feel tiny or is it YOU who is doing that? The truth is, dance has the ability to bring out a lot of insecurities, self-beliefs & judgements you have about yourself.
So let’s be careful here because that is actually not what dance is, that is just what the people make of it. Dancing itself is pure, is innocent, is magical. But the key is to unlock this magic & use this beautiful tool to find yourself.
Do You Even Enjoy Dancing?
Travelling changed my perspective on myself, and at the same time on dance. One day I went dancing in the most famous salsa bar in Cali, the salsa capital of South America. And the dancers there were incredible! Twisting and turning, throwing all kinds of shapes. But something was missing. When I stopped looking at their feet and started looking at their faces, I saw … well, nothing. A grim, tense mouth and concentrated, kinda bored eyes. That is where I asked myself – “Do you even enjoy dancing?” As soon as someone asked me to dance a huge smile grew on my face, and my eyes started to sparkle.
“For me, dancing should be like eating your favourite ice cream, like taking a picture with the person you adore, like unpacking Christmas gifts, like kissing the guy you have been in love with since forever… It just makes you happy.”
And when I am happy, I smile, with all my body. It is like a reminder saying “Ey, this is supposed to be fun, right? Well then, show it!”. And even if I am not the most professional salsa dancer, and I don’t come even close to the skills of others, I have something that they lack – I do not give a shit about all the other people around me, I do not pressure myself in being the best and being perfect, I just have FUN. That is something that I can recommend to everyone that knows this feeling of pressure in the dance studio.
I did a 30-day dance challenge to heal my relationship with dance, and the result was not what I expected ...
Because once you let go of your mind and dance with your heart, people will recognise you. I felt so many people watching me dance, getting infected with my radiation of joy. And that will make people approach you and tell you how amazing you dance, even if you are not the best dancer in the room. Other dancers will constantly come and ask you to dance with them because with you they can actually enjoy it. No one has to prove anything. I am being sexy, stupid, crazy, sensual, whatever I want to be in this moment.
And I can only do this because I am not in a constant dialogue with myself, wondering how I look, if I am doing the step right or if others judge me. I just do it. And yes, it requires confidence. Confidence at the moment – that you are free to do and express everything that is you. And another beautiful dance experience that truly helps you to let go is ecstatic dance.
The Magic of Letting Go
Have you heard about ecstatic dance? This is the total opposite of in-studio choreo – it’s the hippie version of dance class. People of all ages, shapes and genders come together to dance, freely and without conditions. There are no mirrors, there is no teacher and the music can be anything. It is such a liberating experience when you can just move like you really feel it, without having to fit any style or impress anyone. You are totally free – during the session, you can choose to sit down and meditate, you can interact with others, you can dance on the floor or the walls – it is all about expressing yourself in a free way.
When I first tried ecstatic dance at the Hridaya Yoga Retreat in Mexico, it felt really strange to me because I was used to being watched, judged (mostly by myself) and shaped by others’ styles. Suddenly, no one tells you how to move, and I felt lost at the beginning. Because most of us actually don’t know their style, this is deeply hidden inside of them. And I realised that I was looking around if others were watching me – either to feel judged or to get attention. Truth is that your dancing style changes dramatically when you dance without ideas & concepts, but only with body memory. Actually, it is at that moment when you start to find your own style. The famous quote which says “Dance like no one is watching” – THAT is ecstatic dance. So, so, so beautiful, you can truly find yourself dancing. You can find ecstatic dance in all the big cities.
I think we should unite two worlds, bringing awareness and freedom into the dance studio so that everyone feels welcomed and can explore who they are. No matter how others make you feel, what matters most is how YOU make yourself feel. In the end, dancing can be one of your masters that teaches you how to get out of your mind, let go of your judgements and move from your heart.
What is movement for you?
Thank you for appreciating my art!