The Magic of Dance
I’ve always loved to dance. As a small child, I took ballet and tap lessons from a teacher who called every student “Grace,” with what I now imagine was irony. As a teen, I loved going to high school dances with my friends and alternated between trying to look cool and clowning around with the dorkiest moves possible. In college, I took and then taught aerobic dance, inspired by the “Jane Fonda Workout.” In my 20s and 30s, I got into the club and later, rave, scene and really felt for the first time the “flow” of dance, losing myself in the music. There was nothing like it when my body was moving in sync with a crowd of others, with the music and movement engulfing my senses and creating a unity of experience that is hard to match. In my 40s, I started belly dancing. It’s been a wonderful way to meet people, get in better touch with (and strengthen my love of) my body, and experience the thrill (and sometimes anxiety) of performing. I’ve tried other styles of dance here and there. I tend to be something of a serial dabbler with my creative pursuits, but I feel I will always need some sort of dance in my life.
I went back to graduate school to get my doctorate in psychology in my late 30s after a career as an editor, writer, and communications specialist. Although I never pursued it seriously, I studied a bit of dance and movement therapy during my graduate school years. The classes I took were geared toward working with people with eating disorders. The arts, including dance, can be a vehicle for expression that taps into parts of the self other than those reached through talk therapy. What’s more, dance has the power to help a person feel more connected to themselves and embodied, something that is important for many people and especially those who have a difficult relationship with the body (such as those with an eating disorder). Getting into the flow of movement provides a chance to appreciate how the body can feel and let go of judgments about how it should look or how much space it should occupy. Dance is also such an expressive activity–our bodies convey so much with subtle gestures that would be difficult to put into words.
Being a spectator of dance has given magic to me as well. Watching a dancer, especially one who is very talented, can transport me to another state of mind. There are times I have felt overwhelmed with the beauty of dance and have been unable to stop the tears of emotion from flowing–dance has that sort of power.
Below is a favorite video of one of my teachers, Kae Montgomery (formerly of San Francisco’s FatChanceBellyDance), and Italian dancer Barbara Giannantoni doing a duet at “From Rome With Love” in 2015. This style of dance is called American Tribal Style (ATS) and was created in the 1980s by Carolena Nerriccio, who founded FatChance and codified ATS, which is a fusion of Middle Eastern belly dance, flamenco, Eastern European folk dance, Indian dance, and North African dance. ATS is an improvisational style, in which the dancers typically create the dance in the moment.