We Should Be Dancing
… so say the Bee Gees in their 1976 global hit. I tend to agree with them. And then there’s something about the slightly less polite track ‘Shut Up and Dance’. I get it! Ever since I discovered parties and clubs in my late teens/early 20s, I was enthralled by the opportunity to be around other people in an atmosphere of music, where the expectation was to move our bodies, not only our mouths.
What a relief. Strange, you might say, coming from someone who has made their career out of ‘talking therapy’. Yes indeed. There is a very important place for good communication with words but as a personal preference, the appeal of dance and music trumps all.
I understand all the reasons why people don’t dance: shyness, inhibition, feeling you are ‘not good’ at it. In our culture we are used to the spoken word being our social modus operandi, and I wouldn’t be without my ability to communicate with language clearly and effectively. In fact to be a successful psychotherapist, my ‘day job’, the ability to use language to describe a client’s emotional landscape is invaluable and in couples therapy it is often witnessed that verbal communication breakdown goes hand in hand with troubled relationships.
So, back to dancing. What’s all the fuss about? Firstly, I just love it. When I dance, I experience myself in ways that in life off the dancefloor I am not always able to get close to; it feels like I am not controlling the situation. Self-expression emerges from me during dance and shows me aspects of myself. I feel differently about people, generally closer and more connected and I feel differently about the world, again closer and more connected. That’s a big plus.
But the wider point I am focusing on here is the way dancing permits a form of communication that words cannot capture. It puts us in touch with a wider sense of self that gets expressed through movement, and to have that experience around other people, who are experiencing something similar is magic.
In conversational life we can get caught up in knots. We can easily misunderstand people and feel misunderstood. Talking to people in groups is difficult for many. Sometimes it can all feel like hard work and can leave us feeling alone.
Dance transcends this. Perhaps what I am describing here is akin to being in a football stadium. People have a sense of something shared that is greater than their individual sense of self. They can forget about their individual concerns, preoccupations and worries. They can get lost in the feeling, the mood, the rhythm of the crowd.
This is partly what people are talking about after flomotion dance when they describe feeling ‘free’; the freedom is from being stuck inside their own head with the same old stories going on. They have the experience of being carried by the crowd.
So if we took the advice of the Bee Gees and we all danced a little more what would we notice? Better physical health, improved mobility, a reduction in loneliness and isolation, less stress, a feeling of alignment with our fellow human beings, animals, the earth … the list goes on.
People often say, I like to have a dance at home. It can lift our mood and be fun, but the amplification of dancing in a crowd takes it to another level. It’s an opportunity to really experience being part of the human tribe without justification or equivocation.