This is a phrase we hear a lot and it is often what many people want to achieve when they go out dancing. It has often been my motivation – to forget about life’s problems for a few hours, no stress or anxiety, just moving with the rhythm and the bassline. It seems like a wonderful moment of bliss… and it is… but at what cost?
When I started going out to clubs, around the age of 18, I found that dance music being pumped out at enormous volumes from speakers only a few feet away from you absolutely penetrates every cell of your body. If you think of the ripples you can make in a glass of water by banging on the table next to it, you can get a sense of how the vibrations from music being played at that volume right next to you will affect your body.
I found quickly that if I let myself go, I would become totally absorbed in the music; it was like I was at one with the sounds that were moving through me and reverberating throughout my cells. I found this exhilarating and actively tried to give my body over to the beat, often wildly thrashing my limbs around and not stopping for hours at a time until I was totally exhausted, or the party had finished and I had to stop. I got off on the feeling of keeping up with the music and how I could let it move me.
It was as though I didn’t need to acknowledge my own feelings because the music was telling me what to feel. There were many occasions on the dance floor in which it didn’t even feel like I was on the planet anymore – this is the ‘losing one’s self’ that I refer to: no thoughts, no cares, no concept of who I was or what was going on around me, a respite from any responsibility. Bliss, right? After having achieved the state of being ‘lost’ in the music, I would be satisfied for a short time, feeling like I was really ‘living’; I thought I was making the most of life by partying as hard as I could and dancing like a maniac. It also gave me an excuse to become disengaged from my everyday life which seemed dull and grey in comparison. I used to look at other people who weren’t into the party scene and actually pity them, thinking that they didn’t know how to enjoy their lives.
When your everyday leaves you feeling depressed or dissatisfied, a massive amount of stimulation makes you feel alive. But in reality, it was an escape, an opportunity to switch off from everything that I didn’t want to deal with. There were a number of lingering traumas from earlier years that I hadn’t dealt with which haunted my day to day life; on the dancefloor was the only place where I actually felt free of them. However, I realise now that giving myself these moments of relief was actually a bit of a set up because it allowed me to latch onto the feeling that everything was fine, and as long as I was having fun on the weekends, life was all good and I could convince myself (or try to) that I was living a great life.
When we build up many of these same experiences, they hold a certain amount of weight which temporarily counteracts the weight of the stresses, issues and undealt-with emotions that many of us are carrying around with us, kind of like a way of managing the internal unrest but not actually addressing it. Be that as it may, this is not a long-term solution because those emotions have to go somewhere and if they are left unattended to, they will make themselves known in other areas of life, whether it be in our relationships, in our work or in our bodies.
A couple of years ago I attended a Sacred Movement group with Natalie Benhayon in which I was guided through some very gentle and simple movements. It was very powerful because I was invited to stay very present within my body, whilst I moved with a delicacy that was very natural to me but was definitely not how I was used to dancing.
I was used to throwing my body around, hardened, and forcefully, making sure I was in time with the beat. As she put the music on to accompany us, she expressed that the music was there to support but not necessarily to move in time with. This was a new concept to me because I’d always tried to totally meld myself with the music and move to its rhythm but in this scenario I had nowhere to hide. Tears came to my eyes in a combination of feeling the grace of my movements, the sadness of how I had been conducting my body, and the loss at missing the stimulation and escape that I was used to getting from music.
From then on, I practised these movements almost daily and joined many other sessions led by Natalie and other practitioners. Sacred Movement has supported me so beautifully to gradually allow a more gentle and loving way of being within my own body, to feel and deeply appreciate the delicateness and natural openness of myself and to understand the power within that. I began to slowly integrate this way of being into my movements and into my dancing. It has taken time and much experimentation to navigate the way to dance and stay connected; to not hold back my expression in dance and absolutely go for it whilst completely honouring the sacredness of my body, to move with the music but not give myself over to it. What I have allowed to unfold in my body is a richness in movement that I never thought possible.
Now, I am realising that the movements of dance are no more exciting than the movements of walking, cooking, sewing, painting, typing or driving because it is not the action itself that is important, but the quality and connection it is done in. When I allow the same grace that moves through my body when I’m dancing in connection into all these other movements, then every moment is as grand as the last, and every time I appreciate the beauty and simplicity of moving in honour of my body, I drop deeper into it and the grace gets confirmed.
Thereafter, all of life becomes a dance.
By Sophie Noel-Johnson, Student/Waitress, Bath, UK