On Dancing and Writing

Sometimes (the good times) writing makes me feel high -SO high. I get so excited, I enjoy it so much that I can’t describe it with words.

Dancing provokes me very similar feelings. It’s the only thing that makes me feel that good. And I’ve just realised why.

I’ve never been very regular at dancing. I’ve tried many different styles in my life (contemporary/jazz, belly dance, even bollywood for a week) but only I’ve only committed to two dances: ballet and swing, and both during my adulthood.

Swing and ballet look like very, very different dances, and indeed they are. But they have something in common: connection. Swing dance is all about connecting with you partner. It’s a conversation, where partners act and react to each other.You can learn the steps, but there’s no way to do them if you don’t follow the pulse of your partner. Dancing as a follower, I basically follow instructions: my partner decides which move we’re going to do. But if the lead just moves you mechanically, without listening to what you might offer, it’s boring and plain and a waste of time. The best dances are when we both actively respond to each other’s moves, and we laugh and maybe make mistakes, but we’re both THERE. Connecting.

Ballet is not (at its basic level at least) a partner dance. But again, it’s all about connecting. I was doing ballet during the last months of my thesis, and the year when I was unemployed and without any prospects of finding a job in Spain. Dancing ballet connected me with my body. It gave me a sense of control in a time when I had no control at all about important aspects of my life like, you know, work. Focusing on my insteps, my legs, my stomach, my back, my chest, my neck, my head, my arms and my hands all at the same time gave me a sense of being there, of connecting with me.

Connection is the key to dance, but it is also the key to writing. Sometimes meetings, emails, forms, bibliographies and notes eat up all my time and I forget why I’m doing what I do. Too much to do and too little time to do it means that we often rush to finish things. As a consequence, I don’t enjoy them anymore. Writing becomes a boring, plain, mechanical dance with a non-listening partner.

So, now I’m trying to stop, breath, and connect with what I’m writing. Remember why I do it, why I’m passionate about that particular thing in particular, or about the implications of that specific bit of the research. Think about the actual people I’m writing about. When I get it, this connection with my writing almost feels like a physical sensation -an agitation in my chest.

I know this connection is not particular to dancing and writing, and other things like yoga, meditation or photography have the same effects in other people. But I had never thought about writing as dancing, and suddenly it all makes sense.




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