"Dancing can be magical and transforming. It can breathe new life into a tired soul; make a spirit soar; unleash locked-away creativity;…or trigger forgotten memories.'' ~ Unknown. Model in Photo below: Ashley Rhianne Bellydancer. Photographer: Idol Hunter
I always considered myself an open hearted person. I was kind, compassionate, sensitive and really believed in the power of love and romance. You could say I almost lived for it.
What I didn’t realize was that there was a healthy way to be in connection with love and the heart, and one that could actually close you off, not just from receiving true love from others, but also in giving it, especially to yourself.
Who knew that Tango would play a big role in teaching me how to really love myself, and how to connect to my heart center in a more balanced way.
Although I hadn’t learned about the chakras when I was first taking tango lessons, I was lucky enough to have instructors who were very in tune with the centers in our body- both physically and energetically.
When I was younger, I had what some people might have described as a ‘favourite’ response to most questions. It was, “I don’t know.”
Whether the question was “Where do you want to go?” or “What do you want to do?” or What do you want to eat?”, I’d give the same answer, “I don’t know.” On occasion, if I were asked what I wanted to wear, I might have been a little pickier . But even then, it didn’t seem to take much to dissuade me from my initial choice.
There was this air of unsureness that oozed from me. I just really thought I ‘didn’t know’, especially compared to the more confident, opinionated, loud, outspoken personalities that were often around me. Or maybe my timid nature made them appear that way. Regardless, everyone seemed so sure about what they wanted except for me, so I left it up to them to make the decisions.
The thing I couldn’t see is that the more I practised this “I don’t know-ing”, the more I made it part of my identity. I just started thinking that’s who I was. And other people got used to choosing for me. Eventually, I subconsciously started believing my opinion didn’t really matter, that I didn’t have something important to say. And if a little hint of a possible preference would rise up in me, I would wonder what difference it would make anyway, so kept it in. I became accustomed to living life according to everyone else’s preferences. I didn’t think it bothered me because I thought, hey, at least it was one less opinion they had to consider. I thought I was making things easier for everyone else.
But, there were a LOT of opinions going around- family members’, friends’, that of the culture around me which included Indian, African, older generations, and the younger generation of the Canadian culture I also grew up in. Opinions of peers, classmates, teachers, religion, and those I just absorbed from what I read or saw on TV, not to mention those of society as a whole.
“Empty your mind. Be forrmless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~ Bruce Lee
The first time I heard this quote, I was in Rome, Italy. I was in a little restaurant cafe, trying to figure out how to get back to my hotel, which was way out on the outskirts of the city center.
I had been taking the bus from the hotel in and out of town for a few days, learning each day how unreliable the bus actually was. On some days, it arrived a little late, on most days it arrived more than an hour late. And on other days, like this particular day, it just never arrived at all.
That’s when Tariq appeared. He was a young guy staying in Italy but originally from Morocco. We started tallking and he said he was heavily into martial arts and asked if I was familiar with Bruce Lee’s famous teaching, “Be Water, My Friend.”
He propped up his phone in front of me so I could watch a video.
Bruce Lee’s voice captured my attention immediately. He spoke with such passion and fervor about the power of water, and how we were capable of being like it, or being IT, if we allowed ourselves to. I was feeling goosebumps throughout even though I wasn’t sure what to make of it all yet. Little did I know I was about to find out shortly.
Dance moves energy within and around us, with the potential to make space for healing and happiness.
I’ve been learning a lot about different energy systems and the important role they have in our overall healthy and happiness. I have realized how various dances really bring out aspects of these systems because dance itself is energy in motion. It moves energy within and around us, allowing us to make space for healing to happen.
I’ve decided to write a series of articles dedicated to particular dances I’ve experienced and which energy systems they highlight for me and reconnect me to.
This one is about Salsa.
The Root Chakra
Salsa was the first dance I really invested time and energy into. From taking group and private lessons, attending workshops and festivals, learning from international instructors, and going out social dancing on real dance floors, it became a regular part of my life. It was also the first dance where I experienced what it felt like to become part of a dance community.
Because of this I associated salsa with a sense of belonging and the building of a strong foundation.
Salsa was where I first learned about connection, timing, and lead-follow techniques like moving from the core, or prepping a turn, or knowing where your weight is.
Through this dance, I became aware that I even had weight. I was fascinated by how I could feel a great deal ‘lighter’ or ‘heavier’ depending on how I held myself. Was I pushing down on my partner too much, or were my arms noodle like and disconnected from my body? Was I accurately matching the pressure or connection that my partner was giving? And was I engaging the appropriate parts of my body to feel these changes? I never asked myself these question before, but once salsa had me looking into them more, I couldn’t go back. It became something I could take notice of and change whenever I wanted.
My first reaction is to be a little circumspect regarding my age. However, one look in the mirror decided my answer: 70 years on and off.
Wow! That’s amazing. I hope I get to say taht one day! I say flaunt it, rather than hide it.
You started dancing at an early age in public school, right? How did that come about?
Well, I am from Saskatchewan. And physical exercise in a Saskatchewan winter wasn’t easily done. Plus, the little three-room school I attended did not have any such thing as a gymnasium. So, a few desks were pushed back and our teacher, Miss Broadfoot, began teaching us the basic dances of the time: Foxtrot, Two-step, Polka, Waltz, Schottische, and some Square Dance.
I am so jealous! Maybe I would have actually liked P.E in school if I had had that kind of class and teacher.
Well, the community where I was in Saskatchewan was so small it didn’t qualify as a town or village, but as a hamlet. And the community dances drew from the farms in the district.
That’s such a great reminder- how the community we are around influences the kinds of cultural and artistic activities we are exposed to.
I’m curious if there was any stigma around dancing as a boy at that time.
Well, when these dances occurred, mostly during warmer weather, my ability to do a bit of dancing stood me in good stead, as many of the men usually visited together outside having a drink, leaving their wives/daughters/girlfriends in the townhall for me to dance with.
Haha. They had no idea what they were missing. And how perfect for you!
When I turned to tango, I thought it was an escape, from the embarrassment and hurt I felt over being betrayed in a relationship in the salsa scene. I thought that everyone knew what was going on for those couple of years except for me. And when I found out about it, I just wanted to run away from the salsa regulars- those faces that I imagined were either pitying me for being so gullible, or maybe even laughing thinking. “He’s a salsa instructor, for God’s sake! What did you expect?”
I knew I still wanted to dance, but everytime I would go to those same venues, he would be there, eyeing down his next prey. I was disgusted because now I could totally see him for what he really was, and how I had been so blind to it. As much as I tried to ignore it, and put it behind me, I could feel him around. And I knew he was very aware of exactly where I was.
I couldn’t shake the bad energy from it. My body would actually literally be shaking with anger whenever I would go out on the dance floor. It hadn’t forgotten about the mess, eventhough I was trying to will my mind to. How ironic that the muscle memory for salsa dancing had finally been ingrained into my system. But unfortunately, along with that were now these negative associations with the venues where that learning had happened. The spaces that brought me so much joy felt tainted with the lies that were uncovered, so I couldn’t get myself to enjoy dancing in those surroundings.
Where could I still dance and actually have fun with it again?
That’s when Tango came to me- literally. At the time, I thought I chose it. I thought I came up with the idea of trying another dance. But it would take me some time to realize tango had actually chosen me. It had lessons to teach me that I didn’t even know I needed to learn, and at exactly the time when I was ready to learn them.
After taking dance classes for awhile, although I was enjoying them, I felt like I was missing something. How were others getting to such high levels in such short periods of time? Some were joining performance teams or even becoming instructors, while I was still piling up class after class, month after month, and not feeling like I had a lot to show for it. Sometimes, I felt more like I was falling behind than getting ahead.
What was the secret?
I decided to just ask. I approached some of the girls who I was envious of on the dance floor. I asked where they learned or what they did to improve. I wanted to find out who they had taken lessons from and what kinds of practise they would recommend. I guess you could say I was searching for the ‘magic formula.’
But it seemed there was none. Nada. In fact, their responses disheartened instead of encouragedme: “Oh, I just took a few lessons, and then figured it out for myself,” said one girl who looked like a rockstar on the dance floor. Or “I never took lessons, I just picked it up going social dancing.” I wanted to curl up into a ball and hide after that one. And then the final doozy was, “Girl, I’m a natural. It’s in my blood being Latina and all. You either got it or you don’t.”
I guess that meant I didn’t, I concluded.
I should have given up at that point. I mean, all the time and money I had already put into this, maybe I should just pack it in instead of wasting more. But I couldn’t bring myself to stop, to stop wanting it, to stop thinking about it, and to stop going out to the salsa clubs that brought me so much joy. Even though I was getting frustrated with my own dancing, when I would hear the music, and watch all the bodies on the dance floor interpreting it in their own unique ways, moving body parts that I didn’t even know could be moved, I felt so alive.
I wanted more of it. But I wanted to be IN it more, to be a part of it. To be one of them. Not just an observer, but to feel what they were feeling. To be one of the ones that outsiders like me were oohing and ahhing over. To be the one who inspired others to want to dance too. But how?
Despite not knowing the answer, I would still show up and put on my sparkly salsa heels, … just in case…
I should actually rephrase this title and call it, “Dance Can RE-Connect Us to Our Intuition,” because I believe we are all intuitive beings. We came here with the power of intuition to help guide us through this journey and beyond. I think we just forgot, or it was scared or ‘sensed’ out of us. As in, the voices that said, “Be more sensible, more practical, if you want to survive in this world.”
As children, we were encouraged to dream and discover and imagine and create. That was intuition at its best. No conditioning of what was right or wrong, no fear or prejudice against others, no questioning our natural ability to play and suss out what felt good for us. We intuitively knew we had intuition on our side and we didn’t have to second guess ourselves!
But as we grew up, other people’s opinions made their way into our heads, often well meaning people telling us what we should do, how we should be, and to BE CAREFUL. They themselves had been conditioned by caring individuals who were caught in this fear and trepidation trap as well. They were pushed to not rely on their gut feelings, because years of experiences that hurt or harmed them taught them that could be dangerous They thought that putting up a shield would stop others from getting in. But what we don’t realize is that it is actually also stopping us from getting messages from within us as well. And if we could tap back into that, it would be our greatest guidance and protector.
I am so grateful that Dance reconnected me to my intuition!
When I first came to dance, even as a little girl taking some ballet classes, I didn’t know that I was so in my head.
I was thinking a lot- about where this foot went, and what angle to bend that arm, and where to place my body in relation to another fellow dancer beside me.
No wonder I gave up ballet somewhere around 10 years old.
As an adult, I was so excited to find partner dance. Salsa was the place I started first. I thought, this is it! I will finally be able to learn to move as elegantly and fluidly, and with the charisma of the dancers I was admiring for most of my life. Those beautiful dancers on stages and even on social dance floors. I couldn’t wait to learn how to ‘be like’ them.
So I took classes, and more classes. Really working out the steps in my head, and figuring out the timing and even the styling like it was mathematics. Though I was ‘learning to dance’, so to speak, my dancing felt and looked so robotic compared to the dancers next to me. I couldn’t understand how we all started in beginner classes at the same time, and I felt like I was putting more time into extra lessons. But my fellow students next to me very quickly became more flowing and free and fun on the dance floor, while I felt clumsy and stiff and like I had turned dancing into a science.
Well, I had. Because I had put it all in my head, as if I could work it all out with my mind. And one day, a partner I was dancing with said, “What are you thinking about?” right in the middle of our dance.
What? I wasn’t thinking about anything, I tried to convince both of us. But right then, I realized he was right. How did he know?