Dance and a Doctor’s “Stroke of Insight”

Last night, I saw a beautiful contemporary dance performance by Jenni Bregman & Dancers at the ODC Theater.

One of the pieces, called “Stroke”, was inspired by Jill Bolte Taylor. She’s a neuroscientist who wrote a book called My Stroke of Insight about her experience having a stroke and what it taught her about the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

Here is her TEDtalk on the subject – it is fascinating, poignant and inspiring. (I always cry at the end whenever I watch it!)

I think for many dancers, we can relate to the peace, joy and connection that is characteristic of the right brain’s perception of the world. In fact, I dance in order to have that very experience.

When I dance, I feel joyful and light, expansive and at peace with my place in the universe, and connected with the flow of love and energy that is life. I’m not just thinking, or doing. I’m literally “human BEing”.

Dance helps me remember who I am.

You Have a Right to Dance

National Dance Week started last Friday, April 26, so it’s a great time to celebrate dance in your life!

No matter what your experience has been with dance, no matter what you’ve been told or what you’ve believed, how you’ve compared yourself to others or how you’ve worried about getting the steps – know this: Dancing is your birthright.

Every human being has an internal rhythm. Literally – it’s our heartbeat. And we all have the capacity for great joy and great love. Add those ingredients together and you’ve got dance.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to look perfect. You don’t have to know the steps or get the rhythm just right or master the technique.

All you have to do is hear music and let it move you. Breathe, smile, enjoy.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Dance Diary #1: How to Be a Beginner (video)

A new feature on Follow My Lead – dance diary videos!

In between producing webisodes in which I’ll try out new dance styles, I also wanted to have a way to talk to you on a regular basis about dance ideas and tips that come up during my day-to-day dance experiences. I’ll still be writing blog posts, but I also want to have video posts as well.

So, here’s my first dance diary video. It was inspired by a recent beginner hip hop class I took with a friend of mine. After class, we talked about typical frustrations that we’ve faced when taking beginner classes in styles we’re not familiar with. As much as we both get a great deal of joy out of dancing, we’ve also had our share of annoyed/frustrated/angry dance experiences.

If you’ve ever felt the same, here’s some encouragement for getting through your next beginner dance experience:

Amazing Video: Shadow Dancers

Shadow puppetry isn’t something that people rave about. In fact, I’m not even sure if “shadow puppetry” is a thing.

But we know it when we see it, right? Usually during technical problems at a school or business presentation with a projector, when someone just can’t resist sticking their hands in front of the light to make bunny ears or a butterfly.

But this? This is brilliant.

You’ll be amazed by this imaginative dance performance using shadows and light to tell a story that would’ve been impossible to create physically.

Enjoy “Shadowland” by the Pilobolus Dance Theatre!

Let me know what you think of the video in the comments!

What is Follow My Lead? (video)

As you know, Follow My Lead is a dance blog, but it will also be a video series exploring unique styles of dance and the stories they tell.

I’ve been wanting to post video episodes for a while – interviews, tips, “dance diaries” – but it didn’t feel right until I created some kind of video that introduced who I am and what Follow My Lead is all about.

So, here it is!

A caveat: It’s not a highly-polished big production. I plan to produce professional episodes of Follow My Lead, but for now, I wanted to post something simple. And I didn’t want to wait until it was perfect. I have a lot of video ideas in mind, and I didn’t want producing the perfect intro video to become an obstacle to the dance stories waiting to be told.

So, tell me, which styles of dance would you like me to explore and share with you on Follow My Lead?

Dance Advice from my Mother

I was reading the new issue of Real Simple magazine and the Editor’s Note was all about advice from moms. The editorial staff shared the favorite words of advice they’d received from their moms over the years.

It got me thinking about advice my mom has given me and one bit in particular popped out.

She once told me that when someone asks you to dance for the first time, always say “yes”.

One time I said yes to dancing bachata with a guy in drag - go-go boots, sequined dress, blonde wig, the works! (It was the weekend before Halloween, but it still felt...strange.)

This may not seem like a big thing, but it takes a lot of nerve to go up to a stranger and ask them to dance. I’ve adopted my mom’s philosophy as my own, thinking that I can always dance ONE dance with anyone.

It doesn’t mean I have to say yes every time or even finish the dance. If dancing together makes me feel uncomfortable – whether it’s a rough style or the person is drunk or creepy – I reserve the right to stop the dance or say no next time.

On rare occasions if I’m taking a break for my feet or to get some water, I might say “not right now”.

But, for the most part, I say “yes”. It doesn’t mean I always end up with the perfect partner for me, but it does make me feel good to share a dance with someone and not contribute to any feelings of dance rejection.

I’m not saying everyone should do this since everyone (especially women) needs to set “yes” and “no” boundaries that work for them, but it works for me.

***

What advice about dancing has helped you?  Tell me in the comments!

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!