Dance Walking for the First Time

To keep exercising and feeling healthy in the midst of a demanding work schedule, I’ve been trying to at least take a morning walk through the hills in my neighborhood. It doesn’t replace dance classes (which I wish I could take every day!), but it gets me moving, outdoors and energized.

Today, I decided to do something different. I decided to “dance walk”.

I was inspired by the adorable Ben Aaron and his dancing through the streets of NYC, and by the fact that I finally charged my freaking iPod.

Check out how Ben got the idea for “dance walk fitness” and what he did about it:

So, this morning, I grabbed my iPod and set out with my wedding playlist blaring in my ears.

It was an incredible workout! Heart rate up, working up a sweat and having SO much fun! I felt totally happy and energized.

It was 8 am on a Saturday morning, so there weren’t too many people around but I wondered what people in the passing cars thought.

I probably looked a little strange.

Kinda like this:

But I really didn’t care! I was getting down to these shake-your-booty dance classics:

  • Get Down Tonight (KC & the Sunshine Band)
  • Hey Ya! (Outkast)
  • Brickhouse (The Commodores)
  • Love Shack (The B-52s)
  • Twistin’ the Night Away (Sam Cooke) – and yes, I twisted!
  • Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Would you ever try dance walking? If you saw someone on the street doing it – what would you think? Would you join them?

I had so much fun and got such a good workout, that I’m going to make it a normal part of my routine!

 

Why I Sweat My Prayers

Life’s been really busy lately, so I’ve temporarily fallen out of my dance routine.

I was away on vacation and traveling for work, then sick with a cold, and then I moved homes. It was really hard to fit in any dance classes.

But right before the move, I was able to squeeze in a two-hour dance session called “Sweat Your Prayers” that totally revitalized me.

This sign outlining the 5Rhythms hangs in the gym where we dance.

Sweat Your Prayers is not a class so much as a dance gathering. There’s a DJ/facilitator who sets the theme and tone for the morning and plays the music. The music generally follows a path called the “5Rhythms“: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness.

There’s no talking on the dance floor, although you do communicate with other participants through smiling, laughing, occasionally cheering, clapping or singing – and of course – through dancing.

Sweat Your Prayers gives me a Sunday morning to dance at my own pace with my own movements for a whole two hours. I have plenty of time to warm-up, rest and dance according to however I’m feeling that day.

I also have a lot of fun experimenting with different dance techniques. It’s a very open, welcoming space, so it’s easy to let go of feeling self-conscious. If I want to do some ballet steps, some salsa moves, or just leap around the room, I can.

And I love dancing with other people who are there to immerse themselves in dance too.

Admittedly, I was a little shy at first to dance with other people. I just kind of kept to myself and avoided eye contact. But lately, I’ve been opening up and have had some wonderful experiences. Sometimes it’s just sharing a smile and a laugh, sometimes it’s coordinating dance movements together. It’s really fun!

I actually got a little choked up at this last Sweat.

Our facilitator started playing the song “You Get What You Give” and a bunch of people let out a little cheer. To be honest, I’ve always gone back and forth on this song; sometimes liking it and sometimes thinking it’s really annoying.

But everyone was excited and smiling and dancing, and I started listening to the words as I danced.

But when the night is falling

And you cannot find the light

If you feel your dream is dying

Hold tight

You’ve got the music in you

Don’t let go

You’ve got the music in you

One dance left

This world is gonna pull through

Don’t give up

You’ve got a reason to live

Can’t forget

We only get what we give

My heart just opened up.

I hadn’t danced in weeks and here I was surrounded by all of these blissful people just dancing their hearts out. I felt so connected to music, to dance, to people and to life.

And that’s why I sweat my prayers.

***

(And if you feel like dancing to the song too, here’s the music video – complete with 90s fashion, angst, mall setting and a big dance party/food fight.)

How about you? Do you ever get emotional or teary when you dance? Tell me in about it in the comments!

Dance Is for Boys Too

This is Billy Elliott, not my friend's kid. Billy doesn't look too happy here, but he LOVES to dance!

My friend posted an adorable picture on Facebook the other day.

It was her young son’s first day of dance class and he was at the barre in second position along with the rest of his classmates. He was in shorts and a T-shirt and the other students (all girls) were in leotards and tutus.

As a ballet lover myself, I was so excited to see the picture! Little kids at ballet! And better yet, a BOY getting the chance to experience the joys of ballet. He was adorable and according to his mom had a great time.

I commented on the photo supportively, as did many others. But there was one comment that really pissed me off:

“Aw man is he gonna hate this picture in a few years!”

My heart sank.

Here it was: It’s embarrassing for a boy to take ballet.

I don’t think a similar comment would have been posted if my friend had uploaded a picture of her young daughter playing baseball for the first time with all boys.

But for a boy to dance (especially ballet), to do a “girls” thing WITH all girls. Now that could prove embarrassing some day.

I think that’s bullshit.

Dance is for everyone. EVERYONE.

There is much to be learned, experienced and enjoyed from learning dance from an early age – whether it’s ballet, modern, jazz, or tap.

It’s a chance for kids to play and have fun. At the same time, they learn better connection and control over their bodies. It’s an opportunity to communicate through movement and music. And, again, it’s FUN.

It’s not as much fun when you feel embarrassed or self-conscious.

And a lot of that comes from the idea that what girls do is not cool – it’s not for boys. It’s pretty accepted (and even celebrated) for girls to be “tomboys” (a bullshit term in itself; girls who like to climb trees and play sports are just kids who like to climb trees and play sports, not a type of “boy”).

But, sadly, it takes a brave parent to introduce and encourage their boys to explore activities still disproportionately associated with girls – like dance. So many boys grow up thinking that dance is not for them – and they turn into men who don’t feel comfortable with dancing.

And why should they? I’ve been dancing since I was four, and I’ve not had one moment in my life where anyone has, either implicitly or explicitly, called into question my gender or my sexuality for doing so.

But that’s what happens to boys and men- at least in the U.S. In many other countries, it is not considered weird for boys and men to dance everything from ballet to salsa to ballroom!

I think this needs to stop. All kids deserve the chance to explore all aspects of the human experience, regardless of sex. Whether that’s dance, baseball, swimming, singing, tennis, running, playing music…you get my point.

Offhand comments like that of my friend’s friend on Facebook keep us back by perpetuating the idea that a boy enjoying dance is something to be embarrassed about. And those little comments add up when others have negative reactions or make jokes (“So do you wear a tutu, like the girls? haha”). It also contributes to the devaluing of girls.

If my friend’s kid winds up loving dance, I want him to love it without anyone telling him it’s weird or wrong. It’s a tragedy for anyone to feel bad about what they love to do, simply because of their sex or gender.

Dance is for everyone.

Inspire Others by Dancing First

Sometimes loving to dance means being the first one on the dance floor. It means letting go of what other people think and just immersing yourself in the music you love.

It can be hard though. It’s fun to dance with other people, and it feels safer being in a group.

But dancing is also infectious. It usually only takes a few people to get the crowd going. Pretty soon you’re not alone anymore!

Like this guy. Check out how one “freak” turned into a dance mob in less than three minutes.

My favorite part of this video is at the end when you can hear one of the concert goers repeating, “How did he DO that? How did he do that?”

I loved hearing the awe and delight in her voice. He became a leader of dance, but not with that intention. He just felt the music and let it move him. Pretty soon, it took on a life of its own and just spread.

It’s OK to be shy about dancing. It’s not easy to be that vulnerable. But dance is an essential human right, in my opinion. It’s your chance to move your body in joy.

If other people aren’t ready or interested in doing that, fine.

But dance anyway. (You probably won’t be alone for long.)

 

A Reason to Love “Call Me Maybe – Chatroulette”

Steve Kardynal asks, "Call Me, Maybe?"

One of the things I love most about dancing is getting the chance to dance with other people.

It doesn’t matter whether people have the perfect technique or the most amazing style. I just love to move and laugh and sing together.

And a lot of times, it’s the simplest, most upbeat, often “overplayed” songs that help us do that. We can all find the beat. We can remember the words. We can laugh at the silliness of it and have fun acting out the lyrics.

That’s why I’m not a music snob. I love pop music. Not every song that tops the charts, but a lot of it. Because there’s something to be said for fun, upbeat, simple music.

This hilarious video reminded me of all that. It combines “Call Me Maybe” (the big pop hit of the summer) with ChatRoulette (the website that pairs random strangers together for webcam chats).

There’s some naughty dancing involved (slightly NSFW) which prompts reactions from the random strangers on the other side of the webcam.

Maybe it’s how the “star” edited it, or maybe it’s a good representation of what occurred, but the main thing you experience is people letting down their guard and smiling, laughing, singing and dancing along with a weird guy in a bikini.

It makes me so happy. I hope you like it too!

BTW – when I first saw this video a few days ago, it had about 70K views – it’s gone viral now and has over 10 million. Guess I’m not the only one who loves it! 🙂

**

7/8/13 UPDATE: I realized that the original video (which wound up getting over 32 million views) was pulled b/c of copyright violations. The original poster re-uploaded the video, so I’ve since updated the embedded video above.

Lunchtime “Raves”? Sweden is Awesome

The first rule? You have to dance. #Lunchbeat

Living in the U.S. – and working a corporate job – it’s easy to get detached from music, dance or any kind of physical movement.

Each day is basically the same for many of us: drive to work, sit at computer, talk on phone, sit at computer more, eat lunch at desk, more computer, a meeting, go home in car, watch TV.

We try to fit in joy, color and exercise where we can. I take walk breaks with my officemate, stretch some mornings, and take dance classes as often as possible in the evenings and on weekends.

But when I heard about this new trend in Sweden, I wanted to pack up my bags and move! Sick of being tied to their desks, office workers have created Lunch Beat – an hourlong lunchtime dance party. It started in Stockholm in 2010 and has now spread to other European cities.

First of all (Americans, listen up) – Swedes apparently TAKE their lunch breaks, which last one whole hour! Now they can head to Lunch Beat for one hour of sweaty, sober dancing. There are box lunches available to eat or take away.

From a USA Today article on the trend [emphasis mine]:

“It is absolutely fantastic!” exclaimed Asa Andersson, 33, who broke away from her job at a coffee shop to dance last week. “It is the first time I’m here. I’m totally happy and ecstatic, totally covered in sweat, and I’m full of energy. It does not get any better than this.”

The organizers have created a manifesto that starts with one simple rule: At Lunch Beat, you have to dance!

Imagine if this were a standard lunch activity everywhere! We all need to time to recharge – and that certainly helps our productivity. Remember naptime in kindergarten?

Here’s how they explain the benefits:

“By promoting 1 hour of day time dancing we make it possible to fully embody the buzzwords of playfulness, participation & community. A physical knowledge that will make you create magic during the rest of your day too, and so will make Lunch Beat your week’s most important business lunch.”

Take a look at videos of Lunch Beats all over the world, including this quick peek into a recent Stockholm gathering:

What do you think? If someone organized Lunch Beat near your workplace – would you go? Tell me in the comments!

 

A Little Salsa Inspiration: Life Eternal through Music & Dance

Celia Cruz was fucking awesome. ¡Azucar!

One of my favorite Celia Cruz songs is “Yo Viviré”. If you don’t know Celia, she was one of the most accomplished and beloved salsa singers of our time (and hearing her song “La Vida Es Un Carnival” in Costa Rica for the first time started my love affair with salsa dancing).

She released the song “Yo Viviré” shortly before her death in 2003. It sounds like a salsa version of the Gloria Gaynor disco hit “I Will Survive”. But if you listen carefully to the lyrics, you’ll hear that Celia isn’t saying “I will survive”; she’s saying “I will live on”.

En el alma de mi gente, en el cuero del tambor

En las manos del congero, en los piés del bailador

Yo viviré, allí estaré

~

In the soul of my people, in the leather of the drum,

In the hands of the conga player, in the feet of the dancer,

I will live on, I will be there.*

The entire song is a tribute to the eternal love, language and relationship between singer, musician and dancer. Every beat, every step, every note that we experience came from somewhere. And when we sing, play or dance, we embody it all – the people, the culture, the history, the emotions – and we create a new legacy.

It’s not a little thing. It’s a part of the human experience to enjoy, savor, to revel in. Take a few minutes to listen to the song and dance, sing or play wherever you are. Know that it’s not just you dancing, singing or playing –  it’s all of us.

 

*My quick Spanish translation, may not be perfectly accurate, but it’s damn close.