Too Self Conscious to Dance?

We all have something that we are self conscious about, often we feel really isolated with it, as if we are the only ones to have ever felt that feeling.

It might be something physical – we’re too fat, too thin, too old, too unfit, too stiff, not supple enough, not a good enough dancer, not enough stamina, if we have an illness or specific limitation it will be that.

Or it might be on the emotional plane – we’re too needy, to scared, too shy, too sad, too angry, too sensitive, too lonely, too attractive or not attractive enough, too ordinary or weird.

When we think of coming onto a dance floor we fear that all that will be shown. A bit like a singer being nervous that all his apprehension will be apparent in the way he sings, that it’ll all be audible and he won’t be able to sing properly, the song will go out of tune and the audience will know he’s nervous.

Self consciousness is defined as “undue awareness of oneself, one’s appearance, or one’s actions”, the things we’re aware of are often the things we feel most vulnerable about and we fear that those things will be visible to others on the dance floor, and that our self consciousness will be increased. It might be that we’ve been hiding that aspect of ourselves for years, even decades – why would we risk having it seen?

The reason why is that when we bring it into movement it changes.

Jill Bolte Taylor in her book ‘My Stroke of Insight’ said an emotion lasts for 90 seconds. She is a neuroscientist who was in the extraordinary situation of witnessing herself having a stroke – one of the outcomes of this experience coupled with her own research is what she calls the 90 second rule

“Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”

On the dance floor we can allow, even invite, a particular emotion to inhabit our dance fully. So, instead of it ‘having us’, we ‘have it’. We get creative, get curious, find the texture and flavour of it and track those nuances with the vigilance of a hunter following a scent. As Gabrielle Roth, the founder of 5Rhthms said “we turn our suffering into art”.

Then it shifts, something else comes in its place. Not only that but the courage it takes us to stay with how we are helps us to strengthen muscles – we develop more capacity for courage and in staying with ourselves we get to know ourselves more and allow others to know us as we really are. This concept isn’t new! Shakespere in 1601: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”.

I invite you to come and try this on the dance floor, there are many different modalities of conscious dance, I teach 5Rhythms and Open Floor, you can find classes near you from their websites.
I teach regular classes in Forest Row, East Sussex – on Friday mornings an Open Floor class and the first Saturday of the month is 5Rhythms. Bring your self-consciousness with you and test out the 90-second rule.