When Did You Stop Dancing?


Recently I was away at a dance gathering. At one point, we were asked to reflect upon why it is that we dance. Many, many reasons quickly came to mind. I feel more open and free when I dance. I feel more attuned to my body and connected to others when I dance. These reasons were all true, but were somehow less than the ineffable gift that dancing brings to me. After letting that question rattle around for a bit, the truest answer spontaneously came. I dance because I am more of who I most want to be.

I once heard of a tribal custom where when someone would fall ill, the healer would ask a series of questions. One of the questions was; “When was it that you stopped dancing?” Here, dancing can be viewed literally or metaphorically. Really what is being asked is, When was it that you stopped doing what it is that makes you feel most alive? Traditionally, that absence was recognized as a blueprint for illness and disease; a kind of soul-sickness that eventually makes its way into the body.

When I look back over my life, the times I was dancing reflected periods of both great freedom and a sense of belonging. So whether it was the years of ballet, dancing alone in my room, sneaking into clubs to dance when I was underage, teaching aerobics or finding my current dance form, I am never so charged with life as when I am dancing.

What is it that brings you most alive? This is not a should. This is not done as a means to an end. It is not a job you parlay into something else. It is, instead, something that lights you up from within. It is something you do just because of how it makes you feel, not because it gets you anything.

If you don’t know what it is for you, look back to childhood. Back then being charged with the sheer joy of doing what we enjoyed most of all was all we knew how to do.