I thought choosing a title for my blog would be easy, but after an extended period of time poised at the "blog title" part of the registration process, I have realized how difficult I find it to condense all my beliefs about dance and teaching dance into one word or one phrase. Why I dance and why I teach dance are subjects that I could fill pages discussing. You would think that twenty years of teaching (and two theses of 100+ pages) would have forced me to distill this into a succinct phrase, but NO!
I learned to dance at nineteen, way past the age at which most professional dancers begin to dance. I was told I was "too fat" and "too old" to learn to dance. I was laughed at by a close relative who had danced since childhood: "You, dance? That's the funniest thing I've ever heard!" Later, when I told my family I wanted to pursue a master's degree in dance, widespread panic resulted: "That is an avocation, not a vocation!" my father insisted. Still, the pull to dance won, over all the voiced displeasure at my choice of occupation.
My first winter in college, I signed up for social dance as a way to fulfill P.E. requirements. My class was fun, but what really held my attention were the dance teachers and their friends, who stayed to dance after class until dinnertime. They put on folk dance records, and whirled and twirled and squealed with delight until the last possible moment to get in the dinner line. I stayed longer and longer, watching them dance, and after a few weeks, they invited me to dance; I was hooked. I joined the folk dance troupe, kept doing ballroom dancing, and gradually took all the classes available in ballet, jazz and modern dance. By my senior year, I was dancing twenty hours a week and teaching at school and in the community.
Why did I start dancing? The intense joy I felt while dancing exceeded any other physical connection I had ever felt. Moving to music, with other people, filled me with happiness and energy. The people I met dancing understood my need to express myself physically, and honored that part of me. When we joined hands to dance, we connected on levels of heart and soul as well. Dance has provided me with balance in my life, adding flavor and texture to the other parts of my life.
Why did I start teaching? I wanted other people to experience what I had experienced. I also wanted more people with whom to dance! I enjoy teaching adults to dance because I know how intimidating it can be to try something new as an adult. Many of my students are professionals who excel at what they do in life. When you are good at everything you do, it is doubly intimidating to try a new thing, something that you might not find easy--and couple dancing means you have to do that in public! There is no way to avoid making mistakes in front of other people when learning social dance. My job is to make that learning process rewarding, to create space where it is OK to make mistakes and to guide a new dancer into this adventure that is dance.
So, how do you say that in one word, or in one sentence? I still don't know.