Last night was our Scottish Country Dance Valentine's Day party and because I had the night off of teaching duties I had a chance to be a fly on the wall and be a regular student.  It was not a very demanding class and all the dances were ones we had learned before.  There was not a huge focus on technique since there were brand new dancers and it was, after all, a party.  What surprised me was how inhibited people seemed.  I think most of us spend most of our time trying to take up as little space as possible in the world, apologizing for bumping into each other or brushing shoulders, but what I love about dance is that those rules don't apply any more.  In dance we are encouraged to use the space, to carry and use our bodies with energy and vigor, and to truly connect with the people we dance with instead of shuffling past them. 

When Scottish Country Dancing is at its best, to me it feels like what I imagine trapeze artists experience.  I feel as if I fly from person to person, swooping in graceful arcs, catching hands with the other dancers only to be flung off in a new direction.  I have never had dreams of flying, but I've had many dreams where I dance and my leaps gradually become longer and higher until I could bound over buildings and trees.  In order to dance like this dancers need to be present in every inch of their bodies right to the tips of their fingers and toes.  There is no room to curl in upon yourself and try to hide among the others in the set.

I know my experience is different from that of other dancers because I have been dancing my whole life.  My childhood modern dance teacher, Helen, is still someone whose voice I can hear inside my head.  She encouraged us to laugh, leap, run, stretch, and emote.  For a disassociated and shy child like myself, this was pure magic.  With the exception of one or two others in the class, the students in my Scottish dance group did not have the benefit of growing up learning to use their bodies as paint brushes, loom shuttles, kites.

I want to encourage the students to stretch their limbs, look up into each other's eyes, grasp each other's hands, breathe to the deepest parts of their bellies, and hold their heads up high.  This is our one chance each week to not hold back, to not apologize, and to not hesitate in our steps.   I know not everyone in the class can be a perfect stellar dancer.  Some have physical limitations, others find it difficult to learn the complex dances.  What I do know, however, is something every band and choir teacher I ever had repeated ad nauseum.  If you're going to play a wrong note, play it beautifully, play it loud and clear and pure so that even if people hear it and know it's wrong, they are touched by its beauty and grace.  Be brave in the face of inevitable mistakes and let yourself bloom. 
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