Why is it important for dance to feel good? In the dance world, we're surrounded by images that promote images.
Someone boasting of a new teaching opportunity, videos of "select group," flashy clips of choreo that goes viral – all depictions of the glamorous, "cool" side of dancing.
There's nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments, and no one is discouraging the act of sharing them.
But what can get dangerous is when this "image" becomes the primary (or sole) driving force behind why dancers want to dance.
When the thing we start chasing after is not for dance to feel good, but to look good...
Yes, dance is appreciated with the eyes. The movement, the pictures, the timing and execution.
Of course dance is what we see. But I'd like to think that the essence of dance (and all art forms,) comes from the heart.
It's about what we feel. If you agree, need a reminder, or don't understand fully what I mean – keep reading.
...But not necessarily the other way around! Those who truly LOVE dancing have one major thing in common: They LOVE music!
There are tons of people who train their minds to pick up choreo quickly. Sorry to un-romanticize it, but it really is a matter of habit and practice.
If you take enough classes, almost anyone can learn almost anything via drilling and memorization.
Being able to wear choreography on your body may look really cool, but does not always feel right.
The best dancers, those who are the most fun and engaging to watch, are the ones who dance with soul.
They're the ones who look good, not because they're trying to look good, but because they're dancing with feeling.
And feelings aren't concerned with super-cool illusions and speedy breakdown combos. Feelings just are.
And you can see them being translated from a place deeper than skin-deep. That's soul. Love and passion.
That type of dancing feels (and looks) – so good.
...Because those are the times that ultimately define you. Watching dancers live out their dreams is so heartwarming and inspiring.
Great opportunities deserve great celebration. But these messages of success have highlight only the tip of the iceberg...
While the other 90% – the most important part – is kept quiet. Injuries and sleepless nights are not exactly social media post-able.
Dancers' achievements are born from years of hard work, lessons learned through mistakes, and countless difficult questions all artists have to confront.
In this microwave-generation of instant gratification, we assume that what we see is attainable. Quickly and easily.
While any dance dreams may indeed be attainable, nothing worth having is ever going to come quick nor easy. You must put in honest, hard work. In quiet. Consistently.
For a long time. And during that time, you'll deal with numerous rough drafts, nagging insecurities, unforeseen obstacles, and feelings of defeat.
But these are all a part of your story. Make it worth telling, and tell it well – by taking your time. Even when no one's applauding.
Plus... good dancing is about patience, right?
...Will never compare to the connections you form in person. Social media has given dancers ways to share their work in previously unimagined ways.
And it's all relatively new: YouTube launched in 2005, and Instagram video is only 2 years old.
With new ways of expression continually innovating, dancers hop on the chance to get as many eyeballs on them as possible.
"Numbers" seem to be a growing obsession: followers, subscribers, likes, comments...
But a real relationship... is not a number.
Your teammates, parents, leaders, and audience members... are not numbers.
Take time away from your apps, and recognize the cheerleaders, the supporters, the hug-givers in your life. Double-tap.. their hearts <3
...But magic is rarely done justice through a screen. Owning your own footage of a class or performance is cool.
You can revisit it, share it, or just know, 'yeah I was there, I saw that.' But did you really? Or did you see your screen seeing that?
It's heartbreaking to see so many dancers whip out their phones when something impressive might happen.
Because those special moments – truly magical moments of movement, connection, performance – those cannot be recreated.
Would you rather experience it fully by being present, or save a watered-down version of it on your phone?
It doesn't matter that the iPhone 6S shoots vidoes in 4K quality. It still can't see (or feel) what you can.
...But you can rekindle the flame – by being a child again. Have you ever seen a baby do a happy dance?
They're so mindlessly gleeful, without caring about being "clean" or having a "wow moment."
When we first discover dance, we're children being introduced to this new, amazing thing. Something that's fun and makes us happy.
We all begin approaching movement with child-like joy.
But child-like joy... can get cluttered with adult-like cynicism. When you feel like your fire is fizzling out, I doubt it's because you don't enjoy dancing.
It's probably because you don't enjoy a lot of things about dancing. That's a cue to go back to your roots. Remember what it feels like to be a beginner.
Curious, eager, excited. And do your happy dance, too.
...Is that really why we do this? Winning rocks. It honestly feels so great, lol.
But have you noticed that as much as people talk about placings, they talk about specific performances, more?
There are so many elements to a team's set – the choreography, staging, theme, costumes, music... that it's impossible for a hard number to define its quality.
Let's not even get started on the matter of personal preference.
All of this in mind, dancers have reached an unspoken consensus: to appreciate sets for what they are, individually.
We'll talk about "so-and-so's dope opener" or "their costumes were on point" and "that whole floor section in the closer thoughhh"
The placings have almost become an afterthought. I mean, a solid score in the 90's looks great on paper. A trophy is even more cool to take pictures with.
But can you really say that you went through 2 hell weeks for a number? Can you really summarize an entire evening's worth of performances to 3 placings?
Can you really say a trophy is the end goal? We all dance for more than that. We dance to feel good.
...Take the chance to center your own. The more you get involved as a dancer, clashes of opinions and hate comments are going to be more prevalent.
But as self-righteous as people can be, it's also not your job to take in every word. It is on you, though, to grow thicker skin and a better sense of self through all the noise.
Know yourself. As a dancer, and as a person. If you believe in something, then believe in it fully. If you want to change something, then change yourself.
If you want to express something, then do it justice. If Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror" taught us anything, it's that it begins with you.
...After all, everything is a manifestation of the internal.
You know those couples who blast kissing pictures everywhere, but actually are really unhappy with each other? Why is that? Why do we keep acting on these top-down tactics to make something feel true, without addressing it from where it starts?
If you dance for an image, then your dancing will never truly be as raw or as beautiful as it was meant to be.
You're robbing your art of substance every time you chase a temporary feeling of approval.
Look to yourself. Ask yourself questions. Test yourself. Appreciate yourself. Get to know why and how you move.
Because dancing is second nature for those that are in tune with the music inside themselves.
"If you dance with your heart, your body will follow."
– Mia Michaels
We hope these thoughts helped you remember what you truly love about dancing!
Want to share your own? Comment below!
This post was originally published on April 19, 2016.