Dancing, for me, is a symbol. It’s a symbol of bravery. It’s a statement that says: “I’m here for a good time and I don’t care what you think.” For these reasons I’ve always admired the willingness of some people to lose themselves in the music. Dancing is an interesting activity because everyone enjoys it while they’re participating, but far too many people don’t allow themselves to participate. Whether for fear of being a bad dancer, looking silly, or whatever other reasons we conjure in our heads, our inner voice keeps us sitting off to the side watching others have a good time.
In my past I’ve been in this category, spending every school dance of my youth standing against the wall admiring the willingness of my classmates to break it down on the dance floor. Then, along with the rest of my transformation after high school and through college, I came into my own. I began growing into the person I always wanted to be, and, as a result, became more confident in taking ownership over my behavior in public spaces. In other words, I stopped caring what other people thought about me.
An interesting thing happened when I began to act in a manner most authentic to me—people actually started liking me more. I was more fun, more genuine, and brought more positive energy. You know those mental chaperones we employ to control our public face? Well, they rob us of the opportunity to share ourselves with others too, the stuff that inadvertently helps us connect.
I stopped caring and I started dancing. I started taking dance lessons two years ago to embody that mentality of “care-free.” Over the years I’ve grown to recognize other reasons why everyone should try dance lessons. Actually, I think it’s a great activity for anyone to try at least once. Here’s why I think you should start taking dance lessons:
It’ll make you a more confident dancer.
People are afraid to dance because they don’t think they’re good dancers. While there is no barrier for entry to dance at a party, learning to dance willmake you a better dancer. Not to mention, when you’re good at something you feel more confident when it comes time to perform these skills in front of a crowd. Also, do you know what’s more enjoyable than doing fun stuff? Doing fun stuff well.
It’s a nice contrast to lifting weights.
As a fitness coach and avid weight lifter, I spend most of my days training my own body and that of my clients to be as tense as possible during workouts, to help support and stabilize the body during heavy lifting. Dancing is fundamentally the opposite. You must keep your body loose to flow well and avoid looking like a robot. (If you’ve seen any of my dancing videos then you know I’m still a work in progress.) Practicing to loosen up has been a real challenge for me, but a unique and worthwhile endeavor. You know, balance and stuff.
Speaking of balance, dancing can improve your coordination and spatial awareness.
Dancing is great for learning how to control your body through space in relation to another moving object (your dance partner). Since you have to be aware of where your body is to avoid bumping into your partner, you gain a better sense of predicting where your limbs are in relation to the rest of your body—even if you aren’t looking at them.
Why is this important? Imagine greatly reducing how often you stub your toe because you’re less clumsy. What a world.
Learning to dance is intimidating.
I’ll admit, watching videos of salsa dancing intimidated me. It was so far outside of the realm of anything I’d ever done before. I was scared to try, which means I hadto try. That’s the only way to beat these fears: jump right into them with both feet. Otherwise they’ll grow and fester and it’ll be so much harder to overcome them later down the road. Attack these fears early, before they can grow, and you’ll realize there isn’t much to be afraid of after all.
It reminds me of the time I cut my head open (and needed eight stitches to close the wound) because of a malfunctioning machine at the gym. The next day when I was back in for my workout (did you expect anything less?) I could feel myself growing anxious about using that machine again. Even though I knew it was a freak accident, I was still afraid to use the machine (or more accurately, its not-malfunctioning twin).
What did I do? I forced myself to get back on that machine right away. When nothing bad occurred, it helped calm my fears and I was able to resume as if nothing had happened. Had I waited, my fear likely would’ve grown and I might still be afraid to use that machine today.
You beat fear by doing the thing you’re afraid to do. We usually aren’t afraid of the activity itself, we’re afraid of what could happen given the stories we create in our head. Actually doing the thing highlights how these stories might be wrong.
It’s a fun activity to do with your significant other.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen with my clients is that their significant other doesn’t show as much support in their health journey as one would expect. It doesn’t make sense to the client, but it makes perfect sense to me. Early in the relationship, bonding time is usually spent going out to restaurants or bars. The budding relationship is watered with calorie-consuming activities that become cemented as a staple activity between the pair. These activities become more than entertainment, they become a barometer for the health of the relationship.
When this happens, as you might imagine, both people pack on a little weight. When one person decides to make healthy changes and avoid eating out, usually the unsupportive significant other isn’t upset about the absence of the food. Rather, it’s because this change is mistaken for a change in the overall health of the relationship.
I’ve seen it time and again, and I’ve even experienced it myself. This is why I always try to find activities that my girlfriend and I can do together that don’t revolve around food. Dancing is a great option. Not to mention, we are both really busy. The dance lessons give us a preplanned time to be together without any electronics acting as distractions – quality time where we are fully focused on each other.
Dancing is a gateway to finding your confidence. If you’re anything like I was, afraid to dance but unknowingly robbing yourself of great memories, then you must do something to help overcome that fear. I encourage you to find a style of dance that you enjoy watching, and search for local classes near you. If you’re hesitant to try (I was too), recruit a friend to come along. Doing scary stuff is always easier in a group. You don’t have to commit to being an expert dancer, but a little bit of instruction can go a long ways toward giving you the benefits discussed here.
What a world it would be if all people were unafraid to dance their hearts out. What a world.
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