By Mary Reitano
So, actual dancing may not be your “thing,” but it is symbolic of participating in things you enjoy, experiencing exuberance, and engaging fully in “the good life”—whatever that means for you! So join me in exploring the vitality that dance represents. Country singer Lee Ann Womack sang “I Hope You Dance”. In the video, she sings to her children as they explore and dance on the beautiful set. She exhorts them not to be observers sitting on the sidelines of the dance of life, but to enter in by maintaining wonder and gratitude, keeping faith in hard times, being brave, taking chances, and loving in spite of risks.
Wouldn’t it be intriguing to see what happened if we chose to be like these children? When referring to an adult, the word “childish” usually implies emotional immaturity. But “child-like” can be a compliment, meaning an adult has preserved the best qualities of childhood—playfulness, wonder, curiosity, laughter, silliness, optimism, trust and openness to new experiences. Children live in the moment. Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, emphasized being emotionally and physically present in every current experience, fully savoring life with freedom and joy. Katherine Jenkins, a Welsh musician said “When I dance, I just forget everything and feel completely happy.”
What would it feel like if we decided to resist the over-rated qualities of skepticism and cynicism? Some people embrace cynicism like an adult badge of honor. They do not want to be labelled as naïve or gullible, so they put up a thick shield of skepticism. Truly, some degree of caution and careful evaluation of risks is necessary in life. Experience is a generally a good teacher, showing us the types of people or situations to avoid. But an excess of caution could become a problem! What if, as adults, we overcompensate and shut ourselves down? What if painful situations and betrayals have caused us to avoid good things as well as bad things? Yes, hoping and living and loving are risky. But many people think those are risks worth taking—that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
One couple I know literally embraced dancing and it saved their marriage. After a long period of time where they had many responsibilities taking care of their disabled child, they felt disconnected. They decided to take classes in Latin dance, and it revived the joy in their life and relationship. I also remember watching young children at summer performances of the local symphony orchestra. Children dance spontaneously. They are uninhibited, not worrying about who is watching or if they are “good” dancers. We miss out on a lot of fun in life when we are self-conscious. Agnes de Mille, an American dancer said “To dance is to be outside of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.” William Purkey, UNC-Greenboro professor coined the famous phrase: “Love like you have never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching.” Good advice.
Mary Reitano is a licensed Professional Counselor Associate practicing in lake Lure, NC. Her focus is positive psychology with a holistic approach addressing emotional, relational, mental, physical and spiritual health. She can be reached at 704-858-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.