See Me Dance

“You don’t really know me unless you’ve seen me dance.” This is a most prolific statement if you really think about it.

All living creatures have dances. From spiders to birds to bees to humans, since the beginning of time, dance has been a form of communication, an expression of joy, an articulation of pain, a pronouncement of love, an act of defiance, a mating call. Dance can take us on a journey through the depths of our souls to voice our truth, our needs, and our desires in a way that words simply can’t do justice. We dance in the womb and as children we shake, rattle and roll without a care in the world…until someone tells us to stop. And then we become a spider with no web to weave, a bird with no wings to flutter, and a bee with no waggle. Tragic.

Why do we live in a society that makes it so difficult to do the very things we were designed as living beings to do? We are so emboldened to conformity that we’ve even codified into the very fabric of our culture the statement, “dance as if nobody’s watching”. Are our egos so fragile that it would matter if somebody was? Are our beings so needy for validation that it’s important that somebody is? If we stopped feeding our selfish need for status and our propensity for judgement, the statement would just be “Dance!”. We become conditioned to expect that someone with a superiority complex will marginalize us because we don’t fit their idea of what someone should do, or be, and eventually, we stop leaning in. Why? Because that is exactly the experience many of us have grappled with. By the way, I’m still talking about dancing.

There are many who have compared the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging to a dance. From getting the invite, to the space on the floor, to the extension of a hand, a smile, or a nod welcoming participation, to the opportunity to select the music. It’s a good analogy, a great mantra, and in practice, a powerful catalyst. Perhaps if we spent more time dancing and less time judging and jockeying, it would become a bias that we could celebrate.

Naturally my discourse has been inspired by something. Over Valentine’s Day weekend, I was invited to attend a dance. I made it a date night with my “ride or dies”, me, myself and I. The event drew a variety of people from all walks of life and was intended to promote the completely unselfish act of loving and showing kindness to yourself. In my opinion, a perfect way to celebrate the overrated Hallmark holiday. When the dance ended, we came together in community to reflect on the experience. There were many expressions of gratitude but when somebody said, “I don’t think you really know me unless you’ve seen me dance,” it got me thinking. What a beautiful way to lean into inclusion…giving others the time and the space to fully and completely express and emote with unconditional acceptance versus judgement. What a beautiful way to nurture a sense of belonging by doing something together that actually makes belonging matter. In as much as it can be completely about you, it’s equally not about you at all.

If we truly want to “know” someone, we have to be willing to create spaces where people can just be. It’s beautiful to see if you choose to and it’s nothing to be fearful of. All to often we let fear dictate our behavior, especially towards others. In fact we have the history to prove it. We can think about the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as a metaphorical dance but life is not a metaphor. It’s a dance. And there’s much to be learned from a dance.

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