Why I Dance, by Jo Painting

I love hearing about the interests and passions of others and am always fascinated by what makes them tick, so my new post series is all about why people do the things they do and why they love the things they’re passionate about.

The first installment is by my sister Jo, who loves to dance…

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Why do I dance?

Recently, I’ve been asking myself this question. An opportunity to audition for a dance apprenticeship came up a few weeks ago and I was really struggling to decide whether to go for it. Usually, I go for things like this, thinking that going to the audition will help me to decide anyway, but this time the whole process of applying was particularly unsettling.

 I started to question why I wanted to do it, whether I would cope with it, whether I was good enough and then eventually, why do I dance anyway? It was almost that I felt I ought to apply because dance is what I do, it’s what I’ve always done, it’s what I want to do in the future, I love doing it… don’t I?

Every week I go to a dance group where we have a technique class followed by a performance project/rehearsal time. I joined in September and having had a break from dance I loved getting back to moving my body and meeting people there. However, recently, it has felt like more of a chore. A lot of the people my age have left and while the atmosphere is lovely, most of the people are now a fair bit younger than me. Coming home from my last session feeling tired and down hearted, thinking about all this left me with this same question: Why do I dance?

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It occurred to me that I had almost fallen into the thinking that dance made me who I am and that it was dance that defined me, but this is simply not true. It was almost that I felt that I had to be doing some sort of dance because, well, that’s what I do. It was like I had something to prove.

But I don’t. More and more I’m realising the need to accept myself for who I am as I am, right now, warts and all. Over the years dance has helped me to make friends, feel accepted and feel free to express myself. However, it has also trapped me, turned my focus inwards on to myself and my faults, making me self-absorbed and insecure, it has at times lured me into a web of lies I tell myself, resulting in the feeling of inadequacy. Before, I tried to use dance to find a sense of belonging and in some ways it did help me to do that  – I have great memories of dancing with my friends and working with them. Now I realise that dance doesn’t give me my identity. I don’t have to dance.

So with that revelation, I sent an email to the dance company with the audition coming up telling them that I was sorry I could not apply. I did this very much on a whim and it scared me – in a way I was letting go of a mask, one that I have used over the years to hide myself in some way.

After I sent that email I felt a peace that I couldn’t explain. I really did feel liberated from a pressure I have placed on myself for so long and it felt good to have it lifted off my shoulders.

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Now I don’t feel the need to dance. I don’t have to dance. I don’t have anything to prove or cover up or achieve through dancing.

Now I can dance because I like dancing. I can go out with my friends on the weekend and dance the night away because dancing with friends is the best way to dance. It is dance. Throughout the history of dance we can see that in whatever period dance is a social thing.

There are so many reasons why I love dancing. Even sitting here writing this while listening to the radio, I had to take a moment to have a seated boogie to ‘You’re the One That I Want’ from Grease when it came on. While earlier I said that it lured me into an inward way of thinking it can also do the opposite – I love dancing with others and the friendship it can bring.

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So, after all this rambling I thought I’d compose a little list to sum up Why I Dance:

  • It’s fun
  • There are so many different styles, each with different history and stories
  • It’s sociable
  • It’s a great way to keep fit – it focuses on all aspects of fitness
  • Like laughter, I think that dancing to music is a great healer
  • It can help to build confidence
  • It can help to build team work
  • Discipline
  • It can be great to push yourself
  • There’s something liberating about moving the body
  • It facilitates creativity.

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Jo has recently started her own fitness, dance and lifestyle blog at http://liberatefitness.blogspot.co.uk/

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