This article focuses on the internal strengthening and uplifting aspects of dance when it is imparted in an atmosphere of enjoyment and encouragement.
March 7, 2017, I lost my Dad. The manner in which he left this world was unthinkable, and left not only a hole in my life, but a wound that was deep, taking a long time to heal, and leaving a scar that will never be erased.
I have to admit, since that time, it has been bothering me if I should share this with our customers and associates. Some people I have shared this with because of a necessity to explain my own strange reactions to situations. Initially, I felt that there was no value sharing this with our customers. But in truth, this business is different from most, consisting of a community of children, families, teachers, and administrators that share something special that is difficult to put into words. And as such, I knew at some level that sharing this tragedy at some point would be necessary and important.
It was the context of sharing that bewildered me. I didn't want it to be empty words, only to generate sympathy. There is a deeper meaning here that needed time to develop into an expression-able idea, one that could be used to help others.
I think I've come to the point in the healing journey where I can share, and even more importantly, feel compelled to share so people can understand why I am so passionate about sharing dance in a positive, enjoyable way with as many people as possible. This is the context in which I compose the following ideas.
To me, dance is not about winning awards and recognition, its about winning at life with dance as the means to that end. This is such a complex concept - what does it mean to win at life? Certainly, the loss of my Dad did not seem like a win. And the tragic way his life ended was the exact opposite of a life-win. Its not because my Dad was not a dancer that his end came unnaturally early. So, what does one have to do with the other?
I'm sure you have heard motivational phrases such as 'It's not what happens to you in life, it's how you handle it'. I was not able to handle what happened well. I'm human, and this situation broke me. It has taken a long time to put some of the pieces of me back together, and the glue holding the pieces is not invisible. At times I felt like a failure because I was broken. The only way to move forward was to accept that I was broken, acknowledge that I had experienced a terrible pain, and learn to live within the context of that new reality for me and my family.
That idea led to my first 'win' post incident. It came after attending a workshop in July, where I physically and mentally could not participate in fully because of what I could only recognize as post-traumatic residual reactions. It bothered me so much that I could not participate fully. What would become of me as a dance studio owner who couldn't deal with movements and situations that brought feeling of excruciating pain that did not allow me to function at full capacity? I retreated after this 2-day workshop to do some much-needed processing, and after about a day and half of tormenting with this reality, I realized it was just that - a new reality. I would accept this, and learn to move forward within this, and it would be ok.
I had to learn to give myself a break, both figuratively and literally. When you own a business, that's a tough one! Time off for me to be with my family and for me to pamper myself had to be a priority over the last 10 months. But I disciplined myself to a schedule and stuck to it. Dance taught me how to do that.
When I was in the studio, I took great joy and satisfaction in creating and teaching. Moving in the studio allowed me to express myself. Being active helped me to stay healthy and promote an overall sense of well-being. When I was low I was able to distract myself and get lost in the movement and music. Dance, being a form of self-expression, gave me an outlet for my feelings.
Setting goals with our teachers, administration, and students gave me things to work towards and look forward to, and the achievements were that much sweeter knowing they happened in spite of the adversity in the other parts of my life.
I re-discovered that I have a loving, supportive, and caring community of people around me that just needed to be asked once to help when needed, and they were there for me in an instant. This community effect of the dance world has carried me through the worst part of the healing process, and I am so grateful. I've also learned through dance about compassion, and how I too can be there in an instant to support others and lift them up through tragedy and difficulty.
So when I say and advertise that dance should be a source of joy and positivity in your life, it's not just marketing rhetoric. I also don't mean it should be easy and meaningless. What I mean is that some people are just in it for the "wins" and that's ok for those that follow that line of thinking and approach, but for me, its a means, a lifestyle, and a way to add colour to one's life. Even if a person never becomes a professional in the dance industry, through participation of a class or two per week, one can really reap the benefits dance can provide.
Its the combination of challenge, achievement, and expression that is what makes dance an important tool for healing, grieving, and strengthening one's inner self. Please remember to keep it joyful, positive, and remember how lucky you are to get to move, feel, and celebrate living.