Dancing Beyond the Holidays

By Sarina Condello, PhD

When was the last time you pulled out your dancing shoes for the sake of letting go and just dancing? Most of the time when we dance we do it to either get in shape or as a way to celebrate at a wedding or bar mitzvah, or maybe most recently on New Year’s Eve. In North America, it is rare to partake in dance regularly as a way to express communal joy. Yet, for many cultures around the world, dance is still embraced exclusively for the sheer joy of it.

In Africa, South America, and the Caribbean, people dance to bond, to express themselves, and to celebrate the connection of their humanity and divinity. For the most part, however, the driving force behind their dancing is to simply experience unabashed joy. When the colonists witnessed the natives of the world dancing, they had no explanation as to why they danced the way they danced. Their conclusion was that their dancing was a result of an out-of-control mind and childlike mentality. The irony is that their dancing was pre-calculated to feel connected – to the earth, to their spirit, to one another, and to their inherent joyful selves! Dances in these cultures were also designed to ensure a good harvest, protect community, enhance fertility, heal the sick, improve success in gathering and hunting, honour life’s milestones, and, at the same time, provide joyful recreation.

Historically, all throughout North America and Europe, dancing as a way to celebrate communal joy was suppressed by the elite as it was seen as dangerous, disruptive, and unruly. Free celebratory dancing was judged as antithetical to social discipline and, as a result, was ripped out of our culture. Over the last decade, there has been a reemergence of communal dancing and celebrations throughout the continent. Burning Man and Ecstatic Dance sessions are a testament to how communities have a need to experience movement without judgement and for the purpose of experiencing communal joy.

Scientifically, dancing has been proven to fortify the feeling of joy and to fight off depression. When you start moving to music, your brain immediately starts releasing endorphins, which are in essence pleasure chemicals. In response to the bending, shaking, stretching, or twisting that your body is experiencing, you immediately feel more alive, free, and light-hearted. Dancing also connects you to the art of expressing yourself creatively. When we dance, it makes us feel more self assured and effectively frees our minds, bodies, and creative spirits.

So this year, why not dance beyond the holidays? Why not pull out those dancing shoes when you are feeling blue? Or better yet, dance daily in your bare feet to feel great throughout the week. Start by selecting a play list of songs that inspire you to move, and then find an open space in your home where your joyful dancing can begin. As the music begins to play, you can open your dance by connecting your feet to the beat. Add a sway to the hips and a smile to the lips and move with one intention in mind – dance to unleash your joy. And while you are dancing repeat this mantra: “I will never miss a chance to dance!”

Sarina CondelloSarina Condello travels the planet, studying and contributing to communities and cultures through the performing arts. She is the founder and director of Learning By Heart Studio, reaches thousands of orphaned children in Africa through her charity, Big Little Caravan, and has been a movement coach on numerous Canadian television series including Pop Stars and Way Off Broadway.


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