For the longest time, dancing was an activity for the popular and not socially awkward population to me. When younger, I’d watch movies of dance scenes or read stories of intricate fantasy balls, always of such grandeur and heightened energy. Everyone seemed to pay so much attention to the single character in the spotlight, watch them dance, watch them perform- and underneath everyone’s eyes, worry turned to confidence, and nerves to passion. It was always shot so perfectly, made to flatter the star character’s body, moves quickly growing so perfectly. Or at least, that’s how I viewed them.
I would definitely not be the first to cast those fantasy dances aside with a bitter huff, crossing my arms in resentment of the idea that flailing my arms and legs around could be a beautiful show of confident grace for a moment. It was nothing against dancers themselves- but I could never imagine myself getting up on any floor in front of others, and deciding to waste my time on dancing. I was not a dancer. I didn’t know what I was at all really, from the ripe old ages of six to twelve years old- but never a dancer. Never quite confident. Never thinking that something as momentary as a dance montage could undo years of insecurity and frustrations over not feeling good enough.
I was lucky to have kept a fairly healthy body image of myself up to that point in life, with a healthy diet and healthy exercise. But still, dancing wasn’t appealing to me at all. What was I really supposed to do? Was there a point? Yes, I deeply loved the idea of making myself look beautiful, and perform with grace and skill- but what drove people to just dance in the way of jumping and flailing about? What could be fun about that, if there wasn’t any attempt at making it look ‘good’?
I didn’t attend any school dances throughout middle school, feeling far too insecure to have fun in all the other teenage bodies just letting themselves be free. I remained with the idea that it was pointless until junior year of high school, when my best friend urged me to go to homecoming with her. Just to have some high school experience that was normal, after the disarray of the pandemic. And, if I wasn’t really dancing, we could always hang out in the corner and just listen to the music.
That Friday arrived, and my expectations hadn’t risen in the slightest. I didn’t dress in anything fancy in the slightest, just casual wear like most of the other students- but the moment that I stepped inside, hand in hand with my best friend, it hit me. Everything did. The sheer darkness of a newly-emptied cafeteria floor, unrecognizable with the streamers and neon glow sticks. The resonating boom of music through speakers, larger than any I’d seen before, blasting a random pop song that I barely even recognized. A hundred or so people all around me, laughter echoing against the tile floors, far warmer than I’d anticipated in my flannel and tank top, loud and colorful and beautiful.
I couldn’t think- but by god, could I feel. Feeling was all there was to do, and it truly was right out of a high school fantasy movie, how everything switched in an instant. Gone was the urge to just curl up in a corner with my phone. Gone was the urge to slip around the edge of the room for a water bottle. I dropped my bag against the wall and dragged my friend out to the dance floor with me, nothing but excitement on my mind as we started dancing. My mind was blank, gone, just feeling my heart race with the hunger of moving. All that there was to do was move. It wasn’t dance, just move– and that was a distinction I never really thought about. I’d always seen dance as something meant to be graceful, purposeful- but here I was, at a dance, and I only had one of those factors. All I knew was the purpose of needing to keep moving, keep spinning, keep holding my friend’s hand- and I did. I barely took any time to breathe between songs, not wanting to miss out on another tune that I loved, even when I got stitches in my side and felt blisters on my feet. It was energy- all energy. Nothing else. Nothing else I needed.
After that night, I felt a new thrill underneath my skin. I started just doing little sessions of flailing and spinning around at home for myself every few days, getting a random playlist of music from YouTube and feeling that same energy flow through. I just get to dance for myself, in my room, alone. And that makes it so wonderful. It’s a wonderful feeling to return to. Even when it’s hard to remember sometimes, around my near-constant flow of work that I want to do, I can always return to a random pop song and just take a little break, letting it flow through. I have my own fantasy to dance for.