In his wonderful book, Growing Young, anthropologist Ashley Montagu asserts, “Whatever age one may be one should dance, and dance frequently, for there are few activities so wholly and deeply gratifying.” He goes on to quote Havelock Ellis from The Dance of Life : “Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, because it is no mere translation of abstraction from life; it is life itself.”
Dancing is life itself. The Universe dances. Underlying all matter is the rhythmic, pulsing dancing nature of existence, from the interplay of atoms to the spiraling of galaxies. Within our own bodies there is richness and complexity, the dance of heart beating and blood swirling through arteries and capillaries, the intricate interaction of ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones. As we deeply we feel into our bodies and all life, we begin to perceive the ongoing dance.
When I am most open on the dance floor, through my body I experience the beauty, ecstasy and subtlety of life. The dialogue in my mind has become irrelevant or stopped completely. I know myself as pure dance, love moving in a thousand graceful and astonishing ways. Sometimes with a partner we become one moving being, flowing in absolute perfection, surprised by where the movement takes us. The room full of dancers mirrors the primal dance of existence – a vast soup of possibilities, chaos birthing new forms, movement arising out of and falling into stillness.
How does this, then, affect my ordinary life? I feel my cells and tissues deeply impacted, and know that I am engaged in an ongoing evolutionary experiment. It seems to me that my body is physically altered in the dance: I am dancing myself alive! I feel increasingly graceful and fluid, more aware of the subtlety of life, my heart grows and opens. My life reverberates with the dance. There is the dance of my walk and the dance of doing the dishes. There is the dance of each relationship. I am learning to flow with all of it, to feel into each situation, to move and be moved.
Each emotion that arises presents an opportunity to ride the subtle currents, to catch the wave rather than let it engulf me. Just as with a piece of music that may initially seem harsh or overwhelming, if I listen deeply and am present with an emotion, it shifts and changes. Something new is revealed, a new possibility. As long as I stay fluid and open, I keep moving and flowing. And somehow, mysterious and unbidden, the awesome beauty and love at the heart of the dance reveals itself.
In his book The Ultimate Athlete, George Leonard focuses on the dance at the core of all athletic endeavors. He explores how to join the dance in our everyday life, suggesting: “All that is required is the slightest shift in consciousness, perhaps only a question asked of yourself not once (for we so easily forget our own existence) but again and again: am I dancing?”
Am I dancing? In this moment is my breath flowing, am I noticing my feelings and sensations, am I aware of the energy of those around me, am I feeling and participating in the rhythms of my immediate place, with the earth and the world. Through the everyday movement of our life, may we each feel our part in the ongoing dance of existence.
This is a piece I wrote 20 years ago and just found in May of 2015. I find it still to be true and my life continues to unfold as the dance.