Getting Honest

I’ve been working on honesty here at Follow My Lead.

A big part of the reason I started this project was to encourage and support anyone who wants to dance to feel empowered to do so. The thought that anyone would WANT to dance but hold back because they’re embarrassed or afraid breaks my heart.

For most of my life, I’ve talked about how much joy it brings me, how much I LOVE to dance. And my friends, family and colleagues all know that and have seen that love and passion in action.

But it’s not so easy to talk about the other emotions that seem to flare up so easily: the envy, the insecurity, the body hate.

It’s necessary though. It helps me learn and heal, for sure. But I also want to be real. I don’t think it means much to have someone who has studied dance for their entire lives to encourage everyone to “just get out there!”, “have fun!”, “feel the joy!”

Because it’s scary to dance. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people and feel like you’re coming up short. It’s hard to feel comfort and love for your body.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to just talk about how dance is joy in motion, how it’s a form of human communication that spans our globe, how it’s a spiritual experience, how it is so much FUN. It is all of those things.

But it ain’t easy.

I know you have to get over some fears and make yourself vulnerable. You’re not alone. My fear is that if people really knew what I was thinking, knew how insecure I was, they wouldn’t like me. They’d think I was negative and weak.

So I write about it. The times when I dance and I feel love, freedom and joy. And the times I feel unworthy, envious and insecure.

Those feelings are scary for me to admit. Maybe as scary as it is for someone who’s never danced to get out on that dance floor at his cousin’s wedding. Or for someone who doesn’t fit society’s extremely narrow definition of physical beauty to put on some tights and take a ballet class.

We’re all scared sometimes. Dance is frightening because it’s so powerful. I think we can make it less so by sharing the journey together. And I can only share it with you if I’m honest about it all.

6 Reasons Why I Love Dancing with the Stars

I’ve been watching Dancing with the Stars on and off since it first premiered in 2005 and I’m still a fan.

As I’m sure you know, the show pairs B-list celebrities with ballroom dance professionals. Each week they have certain dance styles they have to learn and perform. The dance couple with the lowest combined judges’ scores and fan votes gets kicked off.

Is it cheesy and melodramatic like most “reality” shows? Yes, it is. But, there are a lot of good reasons why I – and many other people – love the show.

1. You get to root for an underdog. Each season the celebrity mix consists of stars of all ages and abilities. There are always a few ringers (Olympians like figure skaters or gymnasts, young Disney stars) who seem to dominate right off the bat. But there are also a few contestants who just shine even though they don’t have the moves down quite yet. They’ve got heart, a sense of humor and a lot of potential, and it makes it so much fun to root for them each week. Plus, sometimes they win!

2. You see “regular” people transform into dancers. As this mix of non-professional dancers continue each week, you start to see a magical transformation. They learn, they grow, they get better scores….they start to look like dancers. It’s a really beautiful and inspiring thing to see people grow in their confidence, ability and joy in dance.

3. You connect with the emotion and spirituality of dance. Dancing is such a powerful experience when you open yourself up to it. A lot of people don’t get to do that – or allow themselves to. There are many fears that hold us back from dancing. On DWTS, contestants who want to win have to push through those fears. And when they do, we witness something beautiful. We see someone channeling joy, strength, vulnerability and love through their dance: they feel it and we feel it. There are no shortage of post-dance interviews in which contestants are either crying or extremely emotional because of what they experienced in their moment of dance.

4. You see that everyone is a dancer. I’m sure that a big part of the mix of celebrity dancers is to appeal to varied audiences to get high ratings. But, I don’t mind, because it is so incredible to see men and women of all ages, body shapes and physical abilities get out there and dance. During the course of the show, each one usually has a moment when they shine as a dancer. And at the very least, it’s clear that they’re having fun dancing. I think it sends a clear message to viewers that anyone can enjoy learning different dance styles – dance is not for an elite group of people with “perfect’ bodies, it’s for everyone.

5. The celebrities’ stories pull at your heartstrings. I don’t know the Hollywood behind-the-scenes reasons why stars decide to join the show, but there are definitely some stars who are overcoming some bad stuff. it’s a good feeling to pull for someone who is overcoming some challenge in their life and moving forward, in part, by dancing. In this season, Valerie Harper was on the show. She’s in her 70s and has terminal cancer, and was one of the most positive, delightful people you could hope to watch. She wasn’t the best dancer, but there were moments in her performances where she was in her element and it was very touching to watch.

6. The judges are great. One of the main reasons I’ve avoided other reality shows in the past is because I can’t stand either the judges themselves (e.g The Voice’s Blake Shelton “jokingly” tweets about running over turtles for fun, SYTYCD’s Nigel is such an egotistical chauvinist at times) or the ridiculous drama between them (e.g. Simon Cowell versus anyone, Mariah Carey vs Nicky Minaj). But on DWTS, Len, Carrie Ann and Bruno are professional and knowledgeable, while each having quirky personalities. They’re straight with the contestants, but rarely cruel, and always encouraging. They’ve got a great banter with each other and you can just tell they really love their jobs.

These are the reasons that I find myself coming back to DWTS. The one thing that keeps me away is that I get too emotionally attached to my favorite dancer and then I’m heartbroken if they get kicked off too early or don’t win!

Are you a DWTS fan? If so, what keeps you coming back to the show?

If you’re not, would you consider watching now that you’ve read this post? Why or why not?