According to a study from MRC data, in September 2021, global music streaming was up by a remarkable 25.9% from the same period in 2020. It seems that I might not be the only one who found solace in music. Recently, I’ve felt the need to do more than just listen passively but instead express the emotions that music calls to the surface through dance.
I always get home late on school nights and have tons of work to do. It used to be that once I finished doing my homework, I always went straight to bed. This routine was exhausting. One day, I had an exam to study for and millions of articles to edit for the newspaper. I was tired. I was emotionally itchy. It was May, and it was hot and stuffy, and I felt trapped. What was I doing this for? What was the point? I’d often put on music while working to act as a form of background noise. Music, for me, was not there to be listened to actively but was something to be passively enjoyed. Usually, I throw on my headphones and stay sitting, stay focused on the work at hand. This time, my frustration reached a boiling point. I stood up, grabbed my headphones and my phone, and listened to “Hey Ya!” by OutKast on Spotify. I felt an instant rush of relief and hope. I felt bliss. I was buoyant.
Since that moment, I force myself to dance. I dance in the morning. I dance before I sleep. I dance alone, or with my mother, or my dog. I suck, but that’s half the fun. Sometimes I even throw my roller skates in there (I’ve crashed into the wall multiple times). And I always, always listen to OutKast.
Dancing is contagious. I’m a huge lover of dancing, whether it’s in my bedroom or on the street or at a party. It allows me to connect with other people (and myself) and slip away for a few minutes to realign my mindset for the rest of the day or for when I wake up in the morning.
Dancing has an indescribable ability to connect and heal. Dancing is vulnerable: it teaches me how to be vulnerable. It teaches me to pour my energy into my step and style, to do my absolute best even if no one is watching. It shows me that I have more to listen to and learn and that unpredictability, like a new song shuffling on your playlist, is thrilling and can act as fuel. Dancing this way—unselfconsciously and actively—makes me feel powerful and limitless, receptive and rooted.
I carry this attitude with me throughout the day, envisioning myself dancing with exuberance even when I can’t actually throw on my music and start grooving.
I shimmy in my mind and stay after class to ask my teacher the question I was afraid would make me look foolish. I throw jazz hands in the air and sashay over to the group of kids I barely know. I moonwalk myself to the difficult conversation I don’t want to have with my friend but have to. I waltz intomyself to a new school club every day. And when I don’t know something, I take a breath, picture myself doing a grand jeté, and as I land I swallow my fear and say “can you explain that?”
I dance myself (literally and figuratively) into and out of situations that scare me. I lean into discomfort while still getting work done. I listen to my body’s needs and uplift others by taking care of myself. I get through the day with movement rather than inertia.
I envision taking this practice and my moves with me in the future. I see my morning dance sessions carrying me through the day, pushing me to try new subjects and explore the world.