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Dancing as worship. Dancing as expression. Dancing as movement. Dancing as communion.

Self-awareness.

To dance without being seen. To dance alone in the dark. To dance in a room full of people. To feel isolated and in community.

The beauty of motion.

Dancing is something I take pretty seriously.

When I say dancing, I don’t mean structured dance class or ballet. I mean hardcore on-the-dance-floor-looking-kind-of-crazy dancing. The kind that a lot of people are scared of. I take it seriously because I love it, but I don’t take it seriously at all because I am not in the least concerned with how well I dance. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

It’s hard for me to pass up an invitation to dance, but don’t get the idea that I’m any good. I’m pretty terrible, more of a flailer than a dancer – all elbows and knees and sweaty forehead – and yet I can’t seem to get enough of it. The melding of a good beat with the muscles and bones and tendons God has given me, all moving together and freeing that tightness we all feel but not all of us are aware of. The tightness of holding too much. The tightness of long weeks of doing what we should, and yet still feeling a hole.

I went to a dance party just the other night filled with boys and girls and hipsters and intellectuals and agnostics and Christians and people who drank and people who didn’t drink. Some made only a brief appearance in the dark basement with flashing lights and sound mixing, standing a good head and shoulders above everyone just long enough to decide “dancing wasn’t for them.” These people promptly turned around and headed back up the wooden stairs to resume investigating the link between “What is life?” and “What is art?”, all while consuming (perhaps) a little too much alcohol. Then there were the boys who would’ve done anything to dance with a girl, sneaking up to them, touching their hands, their arms, hoping that at least one of the feminine among them would comply. This crowd, though, would have none of it, and alas, I found that the genders do better mixing at senior centers than they do at a vastly Christian dance party.

Darkness, lights flashing, faces distorted by the sharpness. Bodies I recognized and bodies I didn’t, shaking and moving in a freeness some only dream of.

I danced and thought, this is when I feel free. I’ve been searching for those moments more often lately, trying to understand why I feel trapped and how to stop feeling that way. One of the boys at the party hadn’t danced in forever and he looked so nervous (and quite stupid, frankly), with his arms close to his side and his feet shuffling awkwardly on the cement floor. I leaned in to him and said above the music, “Just pretend no one can see you. That’s the best way to dance.”

He looked at me, and excitement mixed with the fear in his dark eyes.

I don’t know if he tried it or if it worked, because I moved away from him to another group of friends across the room.

That, though, is seriously some of the best advice I can think of. Pretend no one’s watching. Just dance. Just do what you want. 

There’s so much freedom in it.

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