Dancing · Fear · fitness

Dancing Alone

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.

Woman in red dress twirling alone on a coloured rug
dots dancing alone on a busy pattern” by supermattzor is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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.

Jenn Marino & the Hearts – Got Me Movin’ featuring Bev Camp

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.

advice · Dancing · Fear · fitness · media

Bad Dancing

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.

Elaine dancing, from Seinfeld.

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.

Carlton dancing, from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

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 reduce your inhibitions 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 ironic dancing, 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 dance anyway—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.

Dancing · fitness · fun · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 31

Welcome to Day 31!

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:

A large gold 3D paper star hanging on a white door.
Image description: This is the largest gold star I own. It’s a foldable 3D paper ornament and it is covered with sparkly gold spirals. In this photo, I have hung it on a white door.

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.

My friend Elaine Dunphy with a New Year’s message and a short movement practice for us today. I posted this on my own YouTube channel – the only other video on there is my husband doing the ice bucket challenge, so obviously I am not a prolific YouTuber. The still image shows Elaine in her dance studio. She has very short salt-and-pepper hair and she is smiling and holding her right hand up, palm towers the camera with her fingers held widely apart.

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.

A ten minute meditation from the Great Meditations YouTube channel. The still image is a cartoon drawing of a person in yellow sitting in a classic meditation pose – legs crossed, backs of hands resting on knees, palms upward. The words ‘Clear Your Mind guided meditation’ are on the left side of the image.

And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.

A mini-meditation from the Headspace YouTube channel. Still image shows blue squiggles against a yellow background with the words ‘Health Mind’ written in purple on the upper left side.

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.

See you tomorrow for my first Go Team! post.

Dancing · fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 26

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.

A 5 Minute Yoga Everyday Stretch video from the Yoga with Bird YouTube channel. Still image shows a person in exercise clothes lying on a white yoga mat in a white room. She is in bridge pose.

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.

A wheelchair/chair dance video from the Sit Down AJ YouTube channel. the still image shows a group of people seated on chairs in a classroom/dance studio all in mid-dance.

If you are feeling a bit overdone emotionally today, this guided meditation could help you untie some mental knots.

A 5 minute guided meditation for hope and trust from the Yoga with Manon YouTube channel. Still image shows a person seated cross-legged (in lotus pose) on a purple mat with gold patterns on it), in the background bamboo plants and a small statuette can be seen.

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. 😉

Dancing · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 24

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.

A video from the 2004 ‘Rockin’ Santa’ DVD from WigglesFan12347’s YouTube Channel. The still image shows The Wiggles, John Fogerty, and some backup dancers on a colourful Christmas-themed set. The official Wiggles channel is here but they have the DVD broken up into small sections and I liked the length of this video.

If dancing isn’t on your menu today, perhaps this meditation will help you find space instead.

A 5 minute meditation for inner peace from the Pura Rasa YouTube channel. Still image shows a person’s right leg and arm as they sit in meditation on a beach.

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: ⭐️

ADHD · Dancing · habits · holidays · meditation · motivation

Making Space: Day 15

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)

This is a dance video from Stopgap Dance Company (an inclusive class for disabled people) that includes some choreography instruction and then the practice. Image description: The still image features instructor Laura Jones, a wheelchair user, in an outdoor space with a brick wall to their right, a brick half-wall to their left. Some greenery is visible above the half-wall.

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.

A video of 5 Minute Meditation Music from the Soundings of the Planet YouTube channel. Image description: The still image is of a sunlit field with mountains in the distance. White text in the foreground reads “5 Minute Meditation Music”

Whether you choose these videos or whether you find another route to making space, I wish you ease and restfulness.

Here’s your star for your efforts today – ⭐️

Dancing · fitness · habits · holiday fitness · mindfulness · self care

Making Space: Day 12

How are things going so far?

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.

A breathing exercise video from the Hands On Meditation YouTube channel. The still image is a greenish blue sky with different shades of greenish blue mountains at the bottom. The words ‘4-7-8 Calm Breathing Exercise’ are in the foreground in white.

If you want to get moving today, this hip-hop dance video is a fun way to get started.

A 5-Minute Hip-Hop Dance Cardio video from the PopSugar YouTube channel. Still image shows three people is exercise clothes in a gym with wooden floors and a white brick wall.

No matter what you decide to do today, I hope you find some ease.

⭐️ <- for your hard work

Dancing · fitness

Catherine’s spontaneous backyard dance party weekend

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…

Dancing!

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.

ADHD · aging · Dancing · fitness

Team Hennebury & the ‘Ageless Grace’ Class

Ages ago, I wrote about how much fun I had being gloriously awful at a Nia dance class with my friend Elaine.

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.

image description: a black and white photo of Elaine and a group of seated seniors with their arms stretched out to their sides.
I was so caught up in our class that I forgot to take photos but here’s Elaine leading a different group at an indoor class. image description: a black and white photo of Elaine and a group of seated seniors with their arms stretched out to their sides.

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.)

Image description: A ‘selfie’ style photo of Christine, Denise, and Carol-ann (a.k.a. Mom.)  They are all wearing sunglasses, Denise and Carol-ann are smiling and Christine is smirking.
Here we are after the class, I really meant to smile but I missed! Image description: A ‘selfie’ style photo of Christine, Denise, and Carol-ann (a.k.a. Mom) on a sunny day. They are all wearing sunglasses, Denise and Carol-ann are smiling and Christine is smirking.

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.

And as a bonus, that pretend-taffy exercise loosened up some of the muscles in my upper back that plague me and I’ve been doing it a few times a day ever since.

PS – Just so you know, I have another sister but Angela couldn’t make it to the class!

*In fact, Elaine and I will be experimenting to see if my ADHD brain likes certain exercises more than others. More on that later!

* *Don’t worry, Elaine, I know that the mistakes are the point and that it’s the effort that counts. You know that I’m all about that kind of thing – ⭐️

covid19 · Dancing · fitness

Bettina’s postpartum fitness parade, part 3: Kanga

This is the final instalment of my little series on the specifically postpartum-oriented workouts I did while getting back into exercise after giving birth (part 1, part 2). I saved the best for last 😉

Kanga is a workout you do with baby. It’s a mix of floor exercises designed to build back core and pelvic floor strength, choreographies and some high intensity and functional training. Normally, of course these are in-person classes. But it’s Covid, so we got to do it on Zoom (*eyeroll*. I’m SO SICK of doing things on Zoom). While the Zoom bit was annoying, the class was a lot of fun!

For the floor exercises, baby lies next to you or you will sometimes pick them up and do exercises lifting them up etc. For the choreographies and other parts of the session, the little people go in their carriers. My son usually falls asleep while Mama sweats, and since he weighs more than 6.5 kg (14.3 lbs) now, Mama sweats a lot. Here’s a video of what goes down in a Kanga class:

A video of women taking a Kanga class with their babies in Brisbane, Australia.

I imagine that whether your experience with Kanga is good or not depends heavily on two factors: one, whether you like this type of workout, and two, your instructor. For me, the choreography part was a bit outside of my comfort zone. After a traumatic experience in an aerobics class many years ago, I’ve been spending my fitness life avoiding anything that requires too much coordination. In this respect, I lucked out with our instructor, who made the choreography only a part of the class. With the instructor, however, come other pitfalls such as potential weight loss talk, which is sadly a very strong motivator for many women in postnatal fitness. In that sense, we were less lucky with our instructor, because there was some of that (getting our bikini bodies back and such). She was nice, but the focus on shedding the pregnancy weight was a part of the class that I didn’t enjoy – although many people probably won’t mind.

Overall though, it’s the one aspect of postnatal fitness I stuck with and I’m currently still Kanga-ing once a week until the end of the month when the course ends. If you have a little one and can find an online class (or even, god forbid, you’re in a part of the world where in-person classes are permissible, an in-person one), I recommend giving it a shot.