Antsy middle-schoolers file in the auditorium for assembly. They high-five friends or coolly nod, giggle with heads together, or shuffle along sleepily. Today a visiting song and dance troupe called, Up With People perform around the theme of bullying. Charged by the dancing, befriended by the music, the students return to my daughter, Mariah's classroom amazingly transformed into a cohesive and cheerful group. That is the power of dance.
Despite their self-conscious age, they spontaneously form a dance circle including ALL of the students. They take turns dancing silly, wild, and free in the middle of the circle. Mariah, entertained and pleased, shouts end-of-class instructions as they continue dancing. She announces she will be absent the next day, and the students incorporate mock weeping into their dance moves.
Then a friendly student shouts, "Group hug Mrs. Ordonez!" She cannot stop laughing as they rush her for an unprecedented all-class hug. Contrary and somber students before the assembly now participate with unrestrained playfulness.
Interestingly, the year before, an accomplished theater group performed a play about bullying during assembly, but the results were different. All of the students identified with the victims in the story, even the bullies of the school. No surprise. Research tells us that bullies were bullied. The youth came out of the assembly agitated and aggressive. More fights broke out after the play than any other day of the school year. Whereas words and dialogue aggravated wounds and piqued passions in these adolescents, music and dance infused them with uplifting energy around the difficult topic of abuse.
I had a hard time completing this post because I kept getting up to dance and observe what was happening within me. I stood up in the middle of my sitting meditation this morning to dance the rest of my prayers outdoors. Fortunately, I have a private yard, so I could experiment freely. I liked spinning and seeing all of my surroundings, bending down and reaching up, flowing like the trees in the wind, bobbing like my curious chickens, stamping to feel the hard earth. I became more aware of my body and my environment. It became a relational dance with nature and the divine.
I felt energized and to be honest more aware of the complexity within me. In the midst of the good energy of dancing, I felt my heavy resistance to Monday morning, old messages of body shame, and perhaps the voices of what ought to be appropriate prayer forms. In the practice of welcome and integration, I invited these energies to dance too. I ended my lively morning devotionals ready to write with a new focused calm. I felt a little more free.
Next week, I want to look into the variety of ways we, spirited women, can access dancing, but this week, I hope you honor your body with gratitude for that instinctual tapping toe. And why not gift yourself with a spontaneous spin, a twirl of your hands, and a sway of your hips claiming your freedom to dance, and notice how you dance to freedom.
Click here to read more of Sue's posts.