I remember when the world was my stage.
That rare piece of childhood when I could spend hours alone in my room listening to music and creating what I described as the greatest choreographed works of all time. Remember that feeling? I’d turn the lights down low, crank up the lava lamp and improvise to my Dirty Dancing cassette tape.
During these “shows” I discovered the space that exists between the body and the dance-floor. It’s euphoric. A place of complete focus and creativity, the place where we lose ourselves in music and movement, a kind of trance. I felt awesome after dancing, totally exhausted, but in a way that evokes inspiration and makes me ready to take on the world.
As I grew up and embraced my life as a theatre kid, I didn’t really mind that my singing abilities weren’t all that because being in the chorus meant I got to do more dancing. I learned swing, ballroom, musical theatre choreography and hip hop. I soaked it all up. I wished rehearsals would never end.
In high school I discovered dance music, and at 14 went to my first rave. Technically one had to be 15-years-old to attend but the bouncer let me in—I’m not sure why—and in hindsight, I’m grateful because that night changed my life forever. This was it—my Eden. The people in the crowd were open and the environment felt safe, warm and welcoming. And above all, the way people danced totally blew my mind. They didn’t give a sh*t—they put themselves out there 100 percent. There were gay people, straight people, white people and black people in every shape and size imaginable.
I was hooked and went to a different party almost every weekend, and if I wasn’t at a party I was learning to dance with glow sticks in someone’s basement. Dancing to house music came naturally—I had a graceful flow and great rhythm, from so many years of different movement practice, but this felt nothing like dancing in a studio. It was totally freeing—I felt alive and tapped in. I was part of something bigger—a group of people who really were shifting the world.
I’ll never forget taking my first pill. It’s called Ecstasy for a reason, and I loved it, but it didn’t elevate the experience as a whole—it wasn’t the experience. The true experience was movement and connection with strangers, but drugs made it feel longer and fuller. Fortunately, my love of dance outlasted my love of drugs; after all, I’ve always been cautious of what I put into my body and these strange white pills just didn’t mesh with that. I often wonder though, if I hadn’t taken Ecstasy would I have been able to let go and just move and learn to dance to the same extent?
As I got slightly older, I found nightclubs and go-go dancers. I remember the first time I ever saw a woman (who is now my close friend) dancing on a small stage with house music pumping all around her. I was completely in awe. I’ve never seen anything like it. Her movements were perfect, fluid, elegant and I instantly knew that I wanted to do it too. As soon as I got out of high school I auditioned at a nightclub to join their team of dancers and this same woman I had seen months earlier was the one who actually hired me.
The first night of my new paid gig I wore a furry purple and green costume and felt like the coolest person in the world. I danced weekly for the next several years and I transformed as a performer and person. Some nights the music was terrible and some nights it was incredible. Although a few people questioned my decision to dance in a tiny outfit in front of strangers, I felt completely empowered. (In over five years of dancing I can only remember one or two incidents where I felt at all nervous.) I was rarely scared and for the most part, people were genuinely appreciative and we go-go dancers were an important part of their overall experience.
I needed dance—it kept me grounded and my anxiety at bay. It made me feel good. It was sexuality, creativity and meditation all in one.
My experience as a dancer made me realize that we—especially women—need to dance. We need more movement. We get on our yoga mats and it’s safe and comfortable, but we need to get out of the stands and into the spotlight, to express ourselves more fully.
The Rise of Dancing as Release.
I’ve been to ecstatic dance, I’ve been to pool parties, boat parties, desert parties and the biggest clubs around the world, and in each setting I’ve seen people dance so hard that they lose themselves. That’s what we really need—to get lost, to lose our inhibitions, to break out of the norm. Dancing helps us reach out to others and to allow others in. I love yoga as much as the next girl, but we need to break out of our individual squares of space to actually create the community we love, apart from the safety of a yoga studio. We need to move, to release some of our inhibitions—these pre-conceived notions of who we should be—that have been building up inside of us for many years.
I know dance works because I’ve seen it in action. I frequent a studio in Oakland called Hipline—a studio for women only and I watch bodies of all shapes and sizes lose control. For one hour, these women put on glitter, turn on a disco ball and just let go. It’s not about perfect form or intense choreography. It’s about being ourselves. We dance to avenge all the wrongs committed to queen Bey. We dance like Drake is singing to us personally. We dance for all the times when men have made us feel uncomfortable on the dance floor, and my personal favorite part, we actually look at and support each other. This is a pretty radical concept in a world that’s all about comparisons and places more importance on our paycheck than happiness and self-expression. The experience at Hipline is super sexy and extremely liberating.
Even over-worked nine-to-fivers are discovering the power of dance. Parties like Daybreaker have blown up around the country and give the uber stressed a chance to unwind and get loose.
“You release different chemicals that you can’t get from exercise—you get that from dancing, and in community, sober.” Radha Agrawal, Daybreakers co-founder
I see the emphasis on dance happening in the yoga world as well. At Wanderlust Tahoe this year, the opening event—which is usually a big, cheesy talent show highlighting the headlining teachers—was replaced with The Get Down with Tasha Blank and her motley crew of awesome weirdos. And I mean this in the most flattering way.( If you’ve been to any of Tasha’s events you know how freakin’ amazing she is.)
Tasha started the night by declaring that this was a safe place and that any women in the crowd should feel free to let loose—and we did—the energy was palpable. Further, teachers like Shiva Rea are sequencing classes around the importance of music and movement:
“My theory is that the music-movement complex connects us to our intrinsic source of creative power–the energy that generates ideas, neural pathways, our greatest joy, and high states of energetic coherence–all for free!” ~ Shiva Rea
We need dance because it helps us tap back into our femininity, our sexuality and subtle body. We need dance to help us reconnect to our inner child, the girl who wasn’t scared to get out on the dance floor, be silly and get the party started. We need to feel the Earth and get grounded, to stop pretending that burning calories and losing weight is what our bodies need and instead embrace our bodies as perfect as they are and just let more movement in. We need to stop feeling bad and apologizing, we need to stop walking through life in a particular way just because we’ve been told that’s the right way.
We need to dance.
Author: Celsea Jenkins
Image: courtesy of Eraj Asadi
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock