I come to the dance floor to figure it out without having to figure it out.
I’ve been in conversation recently with dancers and facilitators about the role of Music. How much does the music impact our experience of dancing? Of letting go, of transforming? Of life?
I am sitting at the airport on the east coast of the United States. I’m about to leave the country for about a year, and I’m working on establishing roots in other countries.…a.k.a. my life is changing pretty dramatically, with a pretty sizable amount of unknown. I’ve known this for a while; I’ve been planning this for over a year, making conscious choices that have lead me exactly, precisely, to this moment. I’m about to cross a threshold.
And I’m freaking out.
Why am I doing this?? My life is so beautiful! The leaves are changing colors, the rains are coming; the trees I love in California are burning, and I’m not there. The people I love are loving and missing me, and I’m not there. New friends have changed my life in the last few weeks and I’m leaving them, too. I turned down job opportunities and said goodbye to communities that are so dear to me, where I would be able to make a difference. My family is finally all in one place and I picked that moment to leave. I left a new relationship that felt really good in many ways. For what?? For this feeling of loneliness and fear? To go somewhere where I know no one, where it’s dark for 20 hours out of every day?? Where I have to build an entirely new community, where I literally have to learn new languages in order to share myself, not to mention be of service?? FUCK! Have I fucked up royally?? What am I trying to prove?? What if I can’t do it??
My mind is racing. My heart is at once aching, breaking, racing, freezing, and shutting down in order to protect itself from this massive overload. I watch myself pick up my cellphone to text someone, anyone, about my misery and regrets. As I pick up my phone, I open spotify and press play on my “Current Faves” playlist. I close my eyes for a moment.
The world around me disappears. I am back on the dance floor. I am back in my body. I am moving, moving, moving….the words in my head are all gone. I allow myself to be taken; I can’t help but get lost in these sexy drum beats, in this guy’s voice, these epic piano melodies and joyous guitar solos. It reminds me of bounding around the dance floor like an idiot a few days ago, and how free and inspired I felt at that moment. How sure I was that I COULD DO THIS. How I told myself at that moment: You can do this. You WANT to do this. When you forget why, come back here. Keep coming back here.
In this moment, sitting here in the airport, everything changes. I didn’t try to change my thoughts; I didn’t actually try to change anything. I didn’t do any of the wonderful psychospiritual practices that I’ve learned and loved for the last 10 years. I just pressed play. and closed my eyes.
And suddenly I can’t stop smiling. My heart is still breaking, but it is breaking open. I wouldn’t’ want to be anywhere else. I’m so grateful. So lucky. So grateful.
The next song brings me somewhere else; to a feeling-memory of enjoying being in my body, of feeling sexy and empowered. Four days ago I was dancing alone in an empty house to this song; I had nothing to prove, no one to impress, nothing to know; just 15 minutes to kill. I was having a fucking blast slinking along the walls and booty-dropping in the living room because it just felt good, and that song makes me feel like a fucking goddess. It was that simple. I was alone, happy, in my body. Nothing to prove. And I feel that again now.
Today I am sitting in an airport. Tomorrow I will be on a snowy island where I know no one. Yesterday I was running through red and yellow maple forests. In this moment, listening to this song, I am in my body. I am present. I can feel. I can trust myself, because I can remember my capacity to fucking handle it…and not just handle it, but enjoy it, be changed by it, be inspired by it. To let it move ME.
This is why I dance. Because I don’t have to figure it out. I just have to close my eyes, shake my hands until I loosen up, bounce around and stomp my feet until I’m paying more attention to the floor than I am to my thoughts. Then I just have to let my body do what it wants…and something happens. If you’ve ever lost yourself in movement, or really in anything, you know what I mean.
I’m not saying it’s easy to let go into the freedom of unrestricted movement. I’m not saying it’s always joyful to dance. I’m saying that for me, it’s a necessary release for my mind….and that the music is a really essential and beloved catalyst. More than that, I am saying that—for me—the music is one of the most powerful tools we have in dance, because it can carry us off the dance floor. It can calm and empower me in a moment of major freak out in the airport, and remind me what I’m here to do and that I’m fully capable of doing it.
Here’s what dance is, really, for me: “Okay, mind, I love you, but bless your heart, you can’t possibly figure it all out. I’m gonna let you take a break. Just rest for a little bit. Okay, now, Body…. talk to me. I’m listening.”
Music is born of emotion; of the lived experience of artists from all over the world, navigating and making art out of an incredibly beautiful and complex tapestry of human experience and crazy instruments. So music can move us in ways that we could never fully expect, rationalize, or understand with our minds. Music can guide us through things we didn’t even know we needed to go through, and land us in a place we never thought we would end up. And when we MOVE to music, we learn it in our bodies. We have a cellular memory of the experience that we carry with us, and that we can access in moments of need.
It’s important to me to emphasize that the music is moving ME. My attention is on my body, not on the song. But the song is penetrating me, taking me somewhere. And once I leave the dance floor, I have a new friend (that song) who has taught me something. And when that friend shows up again at some other moment, I remember what they’ve taught me.
And I’m so grateful.
This is why I dance. So that I can figure it out when I can’t figure it out.
Thank you to all the musicians who have changed my life. <3
“I’ve got my roots down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, dowwwwn deep….”