Updated: Mar 27
I don’t dance in public.
I never have; except that one time, in college, when crowd surfing seemed reasonable. The crowd dropped me. I think that is why I don’t dance in public: they might drop me, think I am a terrible dancer, I might fall.
I started dancing in public in 2020. And when I say public, I mean at work. I am a teacher in a high school and I hosted a spontaneous dance party at break, which is a ten minute segment of our school’s schedule. It broke me open seeing the confidence build among the dancers. We spun, sang, shimmied, and shook. It happened that we were all female and they were from the same social group. To an onlooker, we may have seemed silly, strange, and too much. But for me, I felt free, happy, and just right.
You see, dancing feels really good. In fact, dance stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers. But dancing does more than that for your brain. It also connects sensory and motor circuits together. I read this article from Harvard’s Medical School in the Neurobiology newsletter. It dives deeper into the parts of the brain that are stimulated but dance and how doctors are using dance as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. For me, the serotonin released was real and I was thankful for it.
Socially, the consequences of this dance party had different impacts for all of the participants. For the young women dancing, it galvanized their power as a group. It gave them a voice when they didn’t have to say a word. It brought them closer as they participated in an activity together, and it was a bit brave. They left feeling as though other people’s judgements did not matter just then. For the onlookers, those who would not enter the room but took a look, they asked me questions about it afterward. What was that about? Why did you dance? Do I have to? Can I? As the adult in the room, I was judged by other teachers and by other adults. Why are you doing that? Are you creating a cult?
I was acutely aware of the judgement. It was strange in that there had never been a dance party at break before. I know people already think I am a wacky soul in the school. So I ran through a few quick reflection questions to discern if I trusted the decision I made to dance.
Did I respect my own boundaries?
Was I reliable?
Did I hold myself accountable?
Did I respect the vault and share appropriately?
Did I act from my integrity?
Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgemental?
Was I generous toward myself?
As I ran through these questions, written by Brene Brown in her (awesome) book Braving the Wilderness, I realized something important about this dance party. I wanted connection with the power of the young women who did not care what others thought of them in that moment. They connected with one another and I gave the space for them to do so. Did I trust myself in the action? Did I trust that it was ok? Did I trust that it was helpful? Brene Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston and studies at vulnerability, shame, and resilience. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown calls the wilderness “an untamed, unpredictable, place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared.” (Brown, 36) Brown says it is the place where we find true belonging and that the most important belonging is belonging to yourself. Trusting yourself, even in the face of judgment and reaction, is the ultimate belonging.
The questions Brene Brown offers as a reflection unearthed the trust I had in my decision to dance, in public, at 9:30 am. I was BRAVING my own wilderness in that decision. I was clear with my boundaries as I controlled the song, the location, and the amount of time we danced. I was reliable in that I didn’t control other people’s responses or participation. I was accountable to the system of school and the needs of these students. I respected the vault. I did not advertise someone’s moves. I didn’t talk about anyone in particular. I did answer questions but kept the aninity of the participants. My integrity was intact, fully. I was not judging myself or others for participating or not participating. And finally, the hardest one for me, I was generous with myself and I allowed myself to dance fully. Brene Brown is sneaky, she made these questions spell an acronym: BRAVING. You can spin these questions and check in to see if you trust someone else as well. Sometimes trusting others is a step toward trusting yourself.
I braved the wilderness and did something out of the ordinary which released serotonin, increased connection with others, and I trusted myself. That is a big win!
When was the last time you found yourself questioning Trust?