I love this dancing video, have watched it a few times, and it provided moments of cheer. I won’t belabor the point but physio is boring and painful. That’s not exactly news. But wow, I’m doing a lot of it and I’m needing to remind myself why.
Why did I have knee replacement surgery anyway? Okay, there’s the mundane everyday stuff. Like, it’s nice to be able to come in the grocery store to get groceries rather than waiting in the car.
Yes, it had come to that.
I also want to take Cheddar for longer walks and walk between meetings on campus. I look forward to sleeping through the night without knee pain.
All true but there’s also fun stuff I’m looking forward to. Everyone asks about running but the thing is I’m never going to run again. Yes, some people do run after knee replacement. Some people even race. But me, I’ll be sticking to low impact activities like walking, hiking, and biking.
I may return to martial arts though my inability to kneel might ruin that.
One fun thing I’m definitely looking forward to is dancing. I’ve written before about dancing. See here. I promise I won’t worry about bad dancing. I’m going to embrace my inner Muppet. See you on the dance floor!
I am interested in how dancing connects us with others, such as when dark dancing provided a community for dancers during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, dancing with others can also inhibit us, especially when we fear that others see us as bad dancers out on the dance floor.
Today, my post today reflects on the people who need neither community nor coping mechanisms—they dance boldly and fearlessly to music around others, even if they dance alone.
Dancing with himself
Recently I was at an outdoor country music festival stage show—supporting a friend who was supporting her partner who was in the band. The set started for about 30 people sitting or standing in the warm sun.
Soon I noticed someone dressed in cowboy hat, jeans, and boots who had started dancing at the side of the stage. He looked about 80. He was the only person dancing. I gestured to my friend over to him, and she said, “Oh, that’s Bev. He always dances, no matter what music is playing.”
I learned more: Bev has special notoriety among local musicians for coming out to so many shows and always, always dancing. Bev has even been featured in a music video by my friend’s old band.
Not dancing but watching
Watching Bev shuffle out moves like a one-man line dancer, I thought about the (very few) number of times I was brave enough to be the first one up and dancing. I get my itchy feet from my parents, who have always loved music and for years enjoyed two-stepping and square dancing. But the risk of being seen as the weirdo dancing by herself has, more often than not, kept me rooted in my chair.
Some guy in front of me pulled out his phone, training it on Bev rather than on the band. When the guy noticed me noticing him, he smiled and gestured towards Bev in a conspiring way, like I should agree that Bev was making a spectacle of himself dancing alone, so it was ok to record him.
Before the set was over, Bev had moved closer to centre stage, continuing to dance as if he didn’t even notice anyone else was there. We all noticed him, but nobody joined him.
Dance like no one is watching
I didn’t speak with Bev, but I guess that he doesn’t dance at live music to make a spectacle of himself. Bev is there for the music. Maybe he does it to maintain muscle strength and agility, or maybe he just no longer fears what other people think. Maybe Bev doesn’t feel he as if he is dancing alone: his dance partner is the music.
Perhaps dancers are gawked at and teased by those who want to dance but lack the courage to do so. I am still not always able to (as the platitude goes) “dance like no one is watching.” But I will cheer on Bev and others like him, and maybe enjoy the music a little bit more, knowing there are beautiful, brave people who don’t need anyone’s approval to just go ahead and dance.
FIFI bloggers have shared many beautiful and uplifting posts about the aerobic, aesthetic, historical, cultural, and social aspects of their dance and dancing.
But I want to talk about bad dancing. Not defining what is bad dancing (too subjective, or in the case of trained dancing, too specialized). Rather, I want to consider how we respond to the fear of bad dancing in social situations that can creep on the edges of our minds before, during, or after we dance.
Dancing, the media, and us
If you’re of a certain age, a single one word brings to mind the epitome of “bad dancing”: Elaine.
If you’re not quite at that age, but close, here’s second word that sums up dancing so bad it’s good: (the) Carlton.
Both tv sitcom clearly characters find joy and freedom in their dancing. Yet, these scenes also capture some not uncommon worries about dancing: folks laughing behind our backs without our knowledge (like Elaine), or being seen and judged when we dance (though I realize that race, class, and culture ground the joke of Carlton dancing to a Tom Jones song as well).
The media not only reflects but can also amplify our worries. Elaine’s scene reminds us that wedding and parties are places where dancing is a social expectation. We might start to compare our dancing with the many mainstream media celebs and performers who dance with more style and grace (thanks to professional training). Also, there are TikTok dancers around to remind us how much money we are not making from our own dancing.
I bet my non-existent jazz flats that—even those with actual dance training—most folks at some point have wondered whether they were a bad dancer, or if others might have thought so. Just last week, after a fun house dance night with about 12 people I avoided watching the phone videos that were shared around because I didn’t want to watch myself, or see others watching me.
Am I a bad dancer? Part I
How do we respond to fears of being regarded (or regarding ourselves) as a “bad dancer,” or at least not a very good one, when dancing in social settings?
There are lots of ways, most of which fall somewhere between the Elaine (totally surprised/defensive) and Carlton (hyperaware/embarrassed). Read on to see what strategies you have used, and let me know what I have missed.
You can seek out ways to reduceyourinhibitions to care less about how you (or other) feel about your dancing. “Liquid courage” is a common method. There’s even a study that suggests that if you find the “platform of effective intoxication,” alcohol can actually make you a better dancer.
You can choose ironicdancing, an exaggerated form of dancing that is intentionally self-deprecative, as this DJ describes. (Think the Robot, the Sprinkler, or any other passé dance craze). Some may interpret your ironic dancing as making fun of not yourself but them on the dance floor.
You can accept that you are not a trained dancer, but danceanyway—just for fun, relaxation, or exercise. Perhaps you are someone with the congenital condition known as beat deafness, in which you cannot distinguish rhythm or move in time to it.
You might get constructive and practice dancing, as suggested by the advice in this Steezy blog post: take time watch online dance lessons, practice in front of a mirror or in safe places with friends, and take in-real-life dance classes.
You may embrace your dancing as a form of resistance or protest—to white/middle-class/ableist dance norms, the hyper-regulation of bodies, and other forms of systemic injustice. I will never forget for the first time watching Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) in his music video “This is America” (warning: violence)—his dancing had me re-thinking my assumptions about what dancing is, who dancing is for, and why dancing is such an important form of representation and resistance in BIPOC communities. (See this Atlantic article for more.)
Am I a bad dancer? Part II
Upon re-watching Elaine after her let-loose dance scene, I didn’t find myself sharing in her friends and employees’ teasing. Rather, I wished Elaine would have taken her own advice from her wedding toast: “Here’s to those who wish us well. And those who don’t can go to hell.”
In her post Bad Dancers?, dance and fitness instructor Karen Kiefer writes, “A dance floor will always have people with different styles and knowledge levels about dancing: which doesn’t mean they are good or bad dancers, just people enjoying themselves for an evening.”
This is a reminder to you (and me): when you have an Elaine and Carlton-level love of dancing, don’t ask the question—because then the answer doesn’t matter.
I hope today finds you with the space you need to take good care of yourself.
And I hope that you can recognize your own efforts to make that space, even if you didn’t always succeed.
You matter, your needs matter and your efforts matter.
And here’s a gold star for those efforts:
Now, onto our movement and meditation for making space. (As always, feel free to do these or to do your own thing.)
One of my favourite ways to get moving is to join my friend Elaine Dunphy in either an ageless grace or a Nia dance class. Since I can’t bring all of you to one of her classes (what with Covid restrictions and the laws of physics and all), I asked her to create a short video for today’s post.
Here’s Elaine, in full positivity and joy, with a New Year’s Eve message and a short and fun movement practice for you to try as you create a little space for yourself today.
And as for a meditation, I am offering two today.
The first one is for people with a lot of space in their day, the second is for people with just a sliver of time for themselves.
And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.
I hope that these posts have helped you find space for yourself during the month of December when time seems to telescope, dragging on or collapsing without any relationship to the clock or to the calendar.
As we move into 2022, may you have the space you need in your mind, in your heart, in your days, in your schedules, and in the places where you spend your time.
We’re officially into that weird point of December where no one seems sure what day it is or what’s open or what they are supposed to be doing. And the range of Covid restrictions in various places is amplifying the confusion this year.
All of that adds up to even more reason to try and make some space for yourself – in whichever way works best for you today.
(That’s often the tricky part of making space for ourselves, I find. It’s hard to know what we are going to need from day to day and how much space we’ll require to give ourselves what we need.)
So, I’m just going to remind you that making space for yourself is a valid and important thing to do. You deserve gentle care. You deserve to have room in your own life. You deserve to feel good.
And if feeling good is out of reach right now, then I hope you can find a way to feel as good as possible in your current situation, even if the only space you can create is 10 extra seconds in the bathroom to squeeze your shoulders up by your ears and then let them slowly sink downward again.
Since we are in the in-between and everyone may need different things, I’ve picked out two choices for each video. Relaxing yoga/energizing cardio and meditation for hope/meditation for energy.
I hope you can find what you need today, in these videos or elsewhere.
I wish you ease.
Here’s your star for your efforts. ⭐️
Your hard work counts.
If you need to relax today, this yoga stretch video could be a good place to start.
If relaxing stretches aren’t your thing today, this fun dance video might be just the movement you need to create some space for yourself.
If you are feeling a bit overdone emotionally today, this guided meditation could help you untie some mental knots.
If you are feeling a bit blah and need some mental energy, this next meditation might be the answer.
I was slightly reluctant to post this (quite lovely) meditation because it is labelled for ‘productivity’ and I hate that word. Not everything has to be ‘productive’ and our cultural push for ‘productivity’ is one big reason we need to consciously make space for ourselves instead of being able to let it happen more organically.
However, that being said, it is an enjoyable meditation and is NOT pushing productivity. I feel like that word is in the title to help the video be picked up in searches rather than being part of the channel’s philosophy per se.
So, to be clear, I am definitely not criticizing the channel for putting the word productivity in the title and I am not suggesting that YOU need to be productive. I found this meditation energizing and I hope you do, too.
I hope you find space today, with these videos or in your own way.
Remember: No one else gets to decide what space you need or how you make that space. 💚 you are the boss of you. 😉
Every Christmas Eve, I am thankful for the space that The Wiggles created for me with their ‘Rockin’ Santa’ DVD.
The year my youngest son was born, my oldest was 3. Both of them were premies, and the baby had arrived 5 weeks earlier than expected so Christmas Eve found me with a 5 week old baby and a 3 year old and the kind of volume of tasks that only someone with a fluctuating concept of time would have thought they could accomplish in a single day.
I was trying to be a good Mom to both kids and to do at least some of the Christmas prep before my husband got home at 2pm so we could work together.
To say I was overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
After a couple of hours of trying to entertain my big kid while I took care of the baby, I was getting increasingly frazzled and was feeling far more cranky than merry.
Then I suddenly remembered that I had bought a copy of the Wiggles ‘Santa’s Rockin’ and tucked it away for Christmas. By some miracle, I was able to find it even though I had put it ‘somewhere safe.’
I hyped it up to my oldest, popped it in the machine, and crossed my fingers.
HE LOVED IT.
He watched it over and over, dancing, singing and laughing the whole time, every time.
I wore the baby in sling and did a bunch of Christmas preparations and stopped to dance with my big kid every few songs.
Instead of my day being hectic and stressful, it was wonderful and fun.
In fact, if you like corny jokes (and I do!) you could say that on one specific Christmas, they gave me enough Wiggle-room to enjoy the last part of my preparations, stress-free.
So, given that it is Christmas Eve, I’m inviting you to make some space for yourself by dancing along with this song from The Wiggles.
I know that you may not celebrate Christmas but perhaps as you celebrate Friday, you could also celebrate that day years ago when this Mom put aside any idea of too-much-tv-guilt and made space for herself and her family to have a more relaxed day by letting her son (and herself) dance to The Wiggles over and over.
If dancing isn’t on your menu today, perhaps this meditation will help you find space instead.
Whether you dance, meditate, or just sit with a cup of tea. I wish you peace, ease, and SPACE today and always.
And here’s a star for your efforts to find all of those things: ⭐️
I don’t know about you but I am really getting to the point in December where time starts telescoping. I keep feeling like I have lots of time left before a task needs to be finished and then, somehow, time has contracted and my deadline is looming.
Wait, is that just an ADHD thing? Does time do that for neurotypical people, too? I’ve experienced this all my life but I have had ADHD all that time so perhaps it’s related.
ANYWAY, my point is that even when time feels tight, it’s important to do what you can to add in some space for self-care. I am NOT pressuring you to do anything specific. I don’t want making space to become another guilt-inducing item on a long to-do list.
Perhaps, if everything feels crowded and tight, you can do something very small – like taking a VERY deep breath every time you touch your phone or first touch the steering wheel.
If you have more time and space today, here are your videos!
Our movement video is dance instruction/dance practice with Laura Jones from Stopgap Dance Company (an inclusive class for disabled people)
For our meditation today, I chose some restful meditation music rather than a guided meditation. I kind of feel like I am in a spa when I listen to this so that’s not a bad way to spend 5 minutes.
Whether you choose these videos or whether you find another route to making space, I wish you ease and restfulness.
Have you been managing to make some space for yourself through movement, meditation, or through something else that makes you happy?
I really hope you have.
But if it is hasn’t worked out for you yet, I still applaud your efforts.
It’s tricky to find time for yourself in a busy life and it’s even trickier to find energy to do something different with that time. It’s far easier to just zone out and go with whatever habits you already have.
I’m not criticizing the tendency to zone out. I do it too. Sometimes, it’s is all we can manage to do and that’s fine.
But if zoning out is not serving you well, if it is not helping you to feel rested, then maybe you can ease your way toward another form of self care.
Today’s breathing exercise (it’s not exactly a meditation but it also kind of is) might be a good place to start, even if you just follow it for a couple of breaths.
You don’t have to create a huge space for yourself right away, the teeny tiny space of a few breaths is an excellent place to start.
If you want to get moving today, this hip-hop dance video is a fun way to get started.
No matter what you decide to do today, I hope you find some ease.
This weekend in New England, fall is letting us know it’s here. But it’s doing so gently and nicely. We’re enjoying blue skies and autumn sun and delightful daytime temps (low-mid 70s/22–24C), with sweater and jacket temps at night.
Friday evening I went to a bookclub backyard birthday party for my friend Lisa. There was good food, fire pit conversation, rousing singing when the cake came out, and then…
It wasn’t planned. Someone said, “hey– let’s do some dancing!” So we did. Hostess Michele was our DJ, playing mostly hits from the 70s through 90s. Being socially bossy, I made everyone set up to do a Soul Train dance line. If you’re unfamiliar with this, here’s what it looks like:
Of course, these people are the acme of cool (in my view). We were not. But we did attract the attention of the neighbors, who were trying not to gawk at us (according to Michele).
It was the most fun I’ve had in a while. The joy of dancing combined with the joy of celebrating and moving and singing and shouting (sorry, Michele’s neighbors) in a group of people I care about– what’s not to love? I highly recommend this.
But wait, there’s more…
This weekend also marked the Porchfest festival in my town. Do a lot of towns do this? People sign up to play music on their front porches (or yards), and everyone walks or bikes or drives to different locations (there’s even a map) to listen, hang out with neighbors, dance and maybe sing along.
On Saturday, while doing dishes, I heard the sounds of a jazz standard, coming from my back porch. Investigating, it was neighbors from the next street, playing “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. Leaving my chores behind, I headed to my porch to listen. They were really good– swinging the tempo, playing great solos, and improvising lyrics in fun ways.
Before I knew it, I was dancing again. For the second day in a row! This time it was solo, on my back porch, mellower than the night before. But oh so satisfying.
I gotta pull out my tap shoes and take a class again soon. In the meantime, enjoy this dancing by Syncopated Ladies:
Hey readers– when was the last time you danced? Have you done any backyard dance partying this summer? Tell us about it.
I’ve done Nia lots of times since and I’m still a pretty goofy dancer but I have a grand time thanks to the atmosphere that Elaine creates.
Since I trust Elaine to ease me into new things to be gloriously awful at, last week, I checked out her drop-in class for a program called Ageless Grace.
I had no idea how hard it is to draw a circle with your left pinkie while drawing a triangle with your right big toe.
And how relaxing it is to pretend to be pulling taffy, in all directions, in time to some music.
And I wasn’t alone in this fun. My Mom, my sister Denise, and 27 other people joined Elaine and grinned, laughed, and sang our way through a series of exercises designed to encourage neuroplasticity and fitness.
And while I can’t exactly judge if it did those things for us, I can definitely tell you that it encouraged fun.
The target demographic for the class is seniors but it’s useful for anyone who is interested in challenging their brain. (My almost-48-year-old-ADHD-brain loved it.)*
All of the exercises are designed to be done in a chair so the participants can focus on the movements instead of worrying about falls.
Denise and I stood for the whole thing because we both have body quirks that are exacerbated by sitting. It was tricky but trying to keep our balance while doing dexterity/mind-body exercises meant we got to laugh at ourselves a little more than everyone else. (Pretty sure our Mom got in an extra snicker or two at our expense, too.)
So, the long and the short of it, is that I am just as gloriously awful at the Ageless Grace exercises as I am at Nia dancing. And I had just as much fun making mistakes**the whole time.