• Lucia Joyce

7 Things You Might Not Know About Dance

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Photo by James Jin for Dancers of NY

1. There's no wrong way to do it. If you're moving around for the fun of it, that's it. You're dancing. Also, the sillier you feel (especially if it's your first time), the better it looks. Lean into the stuff that feels weird. Dance wasn't always meant to be 'cool'.

2. Scientists speculate that dance existed before the first musical instruments, and that the first percussive instrument was the human body. (Yup, the roots of shows like Stomp go way waaaay back). Scientists have also documented that dancing stimulates pleasure centers in the brain (namely the orbitofrontal cortex and the ventral striatum, if you were wondering).

3. Dance often looks harder than it is, because it has a magic effect on us.

This is a personal epiphany I had very recently. Dance looks like magic to us. Everything from a technically trained ballerina to a sassy, soaked-hair commercial combo has us rapt... but every form of dance can be taught to anyone... and yes, dancers work harder than anyone I know, and every field is competitive AF, but if you want to do it, you definitely can. And everyone can benefit from the body awareness dance affords.

4. There is no most-acceptable type of dance or way to learn it.

There are so many genres of dance, some as old as humanity. But there's no certified, agreed-upon template for what anyone's dance trajectory 'needs' to look like. You can train on your own. You can train with friends. You can hire a coach or take class or learn from video. You can make up your own style in your living room to the music that moves you most.

The key is listening to your body and catering a practice that works for you. I got a private coaching session from Jeremiah 'Supa Man' Haynes (a well known Hip Hop/House dancer) this week and it completely changed my perspective on how to train for my dance/fitness goals. *It also wrecked my neck and calves, but they are recovering pretty well, and my body feels like it's overall in great shape.

The point is, no single person's dance journey looks exactly the same. And anyone who claims they know the 'only' or 'best' way to dance, is closed off, to facts and to the full scope of dance. As mentioned above in number 1: there's no wrong way to do it.

5. Dance is a spiritual experience.

Early structured dance performances in ancient Egypt and India served as religious rituals... we could look at evidence on the walls of caves in India, or we could look at any live performance or recording of dance. Dance naturally brings out your spirit, your inner rhythm, your unique essence. Dance is vulnerable because it's a choice to be seen. Dance is both brave and freeing, revered and sought after. Dance is evolving and expanding-- and though it is commercializing in some places, it's spiritual effect is not dying off any time soon.

The final scene in JoJo Rabbit is just one delicious iteration of the spiritual power of dance. These kids lost everything in the war and now that it's over there's only one thing to do...

6. You can dance at any age.

If you are someone who has been telling dancers their career has a shelf-life, thank you, but stop it. Everyone's journey is different, and it is crucial that dancers continually learn how to take care of their bodies, but they don't need anyone who isn't a doctor telling them when to stop. I did a dance-heavy show last year with a cast of dancers, mostly 35 and up. Margie Gillis turns 67 this year and her dance/choreographic career continues to flourish. Um, oh yeah, and J Lo & Shakira (50 & 43, respectively) held down the Superbowl halftime show this year. Let's all stop putting age limits on dance, together... starting... now.

7. Supporting the dancers you know (even if they haven't been featured on well known TV shows or YouTube channels you follow) makes the world a better place. Dance brings people together--people of different cultures or marginalized groups, people in lower income brackets, people who have learning or other disabilities, people who could benefit from a healthy spiritual boost. Dance can be shared across language barriers and made free in communities that can't afford lessons or studio space. Dance is healing, people!

A Challenge: I challenge everyone to look past the competition mindset of dance and enjoy/support it in a freer way. Noodle around first thing in the morning. Watch/participate in a dance form you're unfamiliar with (guaranteed there are dozens). Support the dancers in your life before they become successful or reach a tier that you know about (supplementary blog article: Honor Artists Before They Become Successful)

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