Come dancing*

Last summer, my friend Siobhan performed a compelling solo dance for her “project” at an Iyengar yoga teacher training in Victoria, BC. All participants had to express parinama (transformation), samskaras (imprints), gunas (three qualities of nature), and heyam dukham anagatam (Google it), through any creative medium. Naturally, people chose familiar modes of expression: An art teacher made striking mixed-media pictures. Some cut up magazines to make collages. A few read aloud deeply personal essays.

Only Siobhan danced. That’s probably because she’s a talented, trained, professional dancer. Who else would dare perform a solo dance in public?

That very week, I received a video of my little niece dancing to entertain herself at a San Francisco museum (she was probably bored and squirmy). Like Siobhan, she did an improvisational dance. Unlike Siobhan, she is not a professional dancer. At what age do we distinguish between what we do and what we simply do not do?

Maybe it happens early. By elementary school, even kids prefer to do what comes naturally, what they’re “good at.” That’s why I like to see folks step out of character and do the unexpected. I like to see middle-aged people change careers or seniors try yoga for the first time. I like to see non-professionals entering realms typically reserved for professionals. YouTube has been a great equalizer (for better or worse). Take this 2008 video, Where the Hell is Matt?, that went viral. It features the funny dance of an ordinary guy “dancing” around the world and it never fails to cheer me up.

*“Come Dancing,” The Kinks, 1982

Come dancing
Come on sister, have yourself a ball
Don’t be afraid to come dancing
It’s only natural


  1. This is cool! I love the Where the Hell is Matt? video – I think I’m going to have to keep the link in a file of cheerful things.
    And I’m with you on the joys of doing things that you aren’t especially good at, just for the joy of it. Although, when I did the same exercise for Intro certification I played to strength – and brevity – and wrote a limerick.


  2. I quit dancing at 16 when a friend told me I wasn’t very good at it. I’ve always been sorry I let her random comment take away the pleasure. (She also may have saved my life, though—she told me I looked stupid when I smoked, so I quit doing that, too.)

    Love the Matt video! I can’t help but smile whenever I see it. Thanks for reminding me of it.


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