In Which I Walk Around in My Bathing Suit {Book Club}

I’m writing this post a few weeks before it will be published, mere days after being at a wedding reception with … dancing. I used to be one of those people who hung out at the edges wishing I could dance.

Being from the U.S. we are not, shall I say, the most dancing country. When I moved to Sichuan Province in China, I lived near a large Minority Institute and every Friday night Tibetans gathered on one of the outdoor playgrounds, set up a boom box, and danced. Beautiful, inviting, circle dances that anyone could join in.

When a friend got married in Scotland it turns out that one of the most anticipated parts was the dancing?! They host a Céilidh (pronounced Kay – lee), involving Gaelic music and dancing. And again, because its group dancing anyone could join, it made me sad for American weddings.

I’m an outsider to the two examples I just gave, so probably have a bit of a romanticized view of both. 

My association with dancing in America involves school dances or weddings. Until recent years when Zumba came in to popularity at the gym, I had a fairly uncomfortable relationship with dancing. I wanted to dance, at say, weddings, but am a person whose basics moves involved stepping left to right and trying to do something cool with my arms. Never being sure what the elusive cool move might be.

Brene reminds us how important laughter, song, and dance are to a whole-hearted life. But how risky they are because they are vulnerable … almost as vulnerable as being naked. I’ll do you one near naked, going to a waterpark with all of your teammates and colleagues. In China. Colleagues, you have conveniently always worn clothes in front of!

I like water parks, but part of it is because I will NEVER see these people again, so who cares what they think of my thighs or pouchy belly. But my friends, who I work with in the day light? Now that is a different story. It wasn’t really an option not to go, so I got up early the morning of the outing and put on my bathing suit and walked around my apartment for about an hour making myself get more comfortable with the idea I’d be interacting with my colleagues in our bathing suits – ALL DAY.

Where’s a good group dance on a Friday night fully clothed in the dark when you need one?

I am here to testify laughter, song, and dance can be cultivated. But I am also here to say, it takes time, intentionality, and little (and BIG) forays into vulnerability and uncomfortableness. For me, it was Zumba, for you it most likely will be something else.

Week after week, I showed up to my Zumba class, the only foreigner. One of the few with a large enough bottom the thought of wearing gym clothes with words on sown onto the behind, though maybe “fashionable,”  was horrifying. One of the few who didn’t always understood what the teacher was saying and clung to every non-verbal message like a drowning woman. One who discovered, Zumba is fun and freeing and the gateway to other forms of dancing in life.

Flash forward to the aforementioned wedding with dancing. I hadn’t gone with anyone, though in my charming way I had glommed onto a man who also used to live in China and was a friend of the bride and I vaguely knew. (By glommed, I mean I told him I was going to stick with him the whole evening.)  It came time for dancing and I have to admit, from a Zumba standpoint, the play list was great for group dancing (translation= no slow songs).

It was the kind of dance where we moved around and this person danced with that one or those two. Arms flinging here and there. Hips, legs, feet doing this and that. It wasn’t award winning, but it was fun.

After a while I noticed two of the bridesmaids standing at the edge, the way I used to. I danced over and invited them to join.

I’m sure you can guess their response.

We don’t know how to dance.

“Look at us, do you think we have any idea what we’re doing? Come join. Just move. Come dance. Come be with us.”

And they did. One from China, one from Oklahoma. Both children of God, made for laughter, song, and dance.

In the comments, I’d love to talk about what laughter, song, and dance are like in the countries you live in. And what they have been like in your life. Which of the three comes the most naturally to you? Which have you cultivated? Or want to cultivate more?

Amy

 

P.S. Here are the posts related to The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown:

 

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Photo Credit: United Nations Photo via Compfight cc

20 Comments

  1. Mary Gemmill May 13, 2014

    In New Zealand I grew up learning ballroom dancing and really miss waltzes etc which the younger generation don’t do at all.

    Funnily enough Scottish Country Dancing is bigger here than in Scotland- and I enjoyed that for many years until arthritis made it too painful.

    NZ Maori have their famous dances, the fierce Haka for men, before each rubgy game, and for men and women Kapi haka groups are everywhere- song and dance with accessories.

    Pacific peoples have wonderful repertoires of song and dance also, and Polyfests are a part of most cities and towns in NZ where schools compete against each other and the best from each region go on to the Nationals.

    Barbershop is huge in the city where I live- the school where I teach has the most choirs of any school in the world and we have been world champs for several years.

    My children went to a Christian School where the Feats of Tabernacles was celebrated each year. After a shared meal there was always a wonderful evening of the children teaching parents the  Israeli dances then the parents joining in- always a highlight of the year for us all.

    SO- for the young there are plenty of opportunities for song and dance, and for the oldies- Scottish Country or Zumba are popular choices.

    I look forward to what people from other countries have to answer your question 🙂

    1. Elizabeth May 13, 2014

      Can I just say the variety of dances in your comment was amazing? And fun 🙂

    2. Amy Young May 14, 2014

      I love watching Haka dancing! And echo Elizabeth … what a fun comment!

  2. Elizabeth May 13, 2014

    I love the idea of the group dance, it seems much safer than what we Americans do! I went to a traditional Khmer (Cambodia) dance class once. I thought it was very difficult as a first timer! The friend who had brought me had been to many classes, so her motions were smooth and flawless. Still, I enjoyed it. It’s also a group dance (line or circle), and the hand movements especially are beautiful. I can’t do them well, but they’re fun, meant to mimic the opening and closing of the lotus flower. And I liked watching the Cambodian girl in front of me, who was quite skilled   🙂

    1. Amy Young May 14, 2014

      Any first timer to Zumba we let them know … don’t worry if you feel lost! We ALL did our first time. You’ll get it, don’t put pressure on yourself to get it all at once. And yes, :), isn’t it fun to watch others dance!

  3. Alex King May 13, 2014

    In India, they love doing simple, choreographed group dances. I have no rhythm. None. This bodes well for me in America because at weddings, I just act afool and have fun and let go, but in India where they want me to teach “American dances”… it’s been interesting. Especially since we don’t have “American dances”, you know? Our first month here, the girls at the children’s home we worked with convinced me to learn a dance to a song called “Pray for India” and then we performed it at a church fellowship. I am sure I looked absolutely ridiculous but it was admittedly a fun bonding experience with the girls!

    1. Amy Young May 14, 2014

      What?! No Bollywood dancing :)?! Kidding :). Oh yes, the nebulous “teach me American dancing.” And so glad you were able to bond with dancing! Fun, fun (and I get ridiculous!) 🙂

  4. Kimberly Todd May 13, 2014

    Our bond with a friend here in NW China deepened when we asked him to teach us a traditional uyghur dance called the sama. He enthusiastically admitted that he never learned it having gone to boarding school in Shanghai for most of his formative years, but he offered to recruit a classmate to teach us all.

    Due to this chapter, I updated our DANCE! playlist to include “Ice Ice Baby” and “Footloose.” “Kungfu Fighting” was already a favorite. =)

    1. Amy Young May 14, 2014

      Why are my feet tapping after reading this? 🙂 … cause “everyone loves kung fu fighting, TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP.” Can’t help it!

    2. Morielle May 14, 2014

      Sama is one of my favorite dances ever!!!! (OK, I love all Kazak, Kyrgyz, Uyghur and Tajik dances I know…) But Sama is especially awesome because everyone does it together, not in partners, so it feels really tribal. 🙂

      Oh, and I find it really hilarious that our local Kazak restaurant with a dance floor plays the same “Cha-cha” song every time I go there, and everyone line dances cha-cha to it. Do they dance cha-cha in your part of NW China?

      1. Kimberly Todd May 15, 2014

        I have never seen the cha-cha here. That’s a hoot!

  5. tami May 13, 2014

    Lots of hip movements and belly dancing kind of stuff over here in N Africa!  Pretty lust-enducing!  The interesting thing is that they say that American dancing (jumping up and down to pop songs) is scandalously sensuous!   I loved, loved being at a party this year, that was a mix of believers and not-yet believers…our friends, believing young men, were so amazing.  there was hardly any space on the balcony where they were seated; the ladies were dancing a foot in front of them, and these guys were looking at the floor, the sky, the wall, anything else but those wagging butts!  Bless those who strive to be pure in heart!   🙂

    1. Amy Young May 14, 2014

      Oh my word, Tami, this brought back memories! We were having a staff retreat and on our way out of town stopped at a middle eastern restaurant for lunch. Near the end of the meal several women came out and belly danced. Similar to your story, they targeted the foreign men in our group who were looking EVERY where else. It was awkward! All of a sudden one of the bored boys (about six) said loudly, “HEY, let’st get out of here.”

      All of us adults immediately thought this was a great idea (and wondered why one of us didn’t think of it!) and off we went 🙂

  6. Jessica Hoover May 14, 2014

    I don’t have anything incredibly insightful to say here, but I wanted to add that I love Zumba and it has been one of the most freeing things for me to do. I love joining with women of all ages and just atmosphere of acceptance and fun that we cultivate- I think it has made me braver and has broader implications than just my weekly exercise. I loved the way you approached this Amy! And would you believe I read it on the way home form a waterpark, lol?!

     

    1. Amy Young May 14, 2014

      Jessica, that’s part of it for me too! I feel like Zumba has helped me be so much braver the last four years! AND what a hoot that you were at a water park 🙂

  7. Morielle May 14, 2014

    The thing about being naked is, it’s easy as long as no one is watching you. That’s perhaps one of the bigger things living in China has slowly been giving me: the courage to be naked (metaphorically…literally, singing, dancing, and laughing) even though I know *everyone* is watching. Our “city” used to have a bar. Two co-workers took me there my first week here. Yes, I was the center of attention the minute I walked in, let alone once I started dancing. But once I managed to stop thinking about whether those cellphone recorder lights meant I would become a youku sensation (“is that how they dance in America?”), I had an amazing time.

    1. Amy Young May 19, 2014

      The thing about being naked is, it’s easy as long as no one is watching you. 

       

      True that Morielle. I love how you cut to the heart of things 🙂

      1. Morielle May 20, 2014

        Amy, I realized today that another thing that makes me feel naked is crying. On Sunday I had a conversation in which I kept myself from crying. My friend asked how I felt, and I said (among other feelings) “a little sad” and then swallowed the tears. I should have said “heartbroken” and wept freely. I think it would have done much good for both of us.

  8. Brittany May 15, 2014

    I’ve always longed to be a dancer, but never cultivated it, or even knew how to.  I love laughing and I’m pretty brave with my singing.  But dancing?  I have NO idea what I’m doing!  And even if I did, I really resonate with the I-might-as-well-be-naked attitude toward dancing in public.  For the first time, I started going to Zumba here in Romania and had so much fun!  I stand in the back, of course, and I still feel self-conscious and awkward.  But I’ve also watched the other ladies and giggled a little bit and thought, “We’re all in the same boat!”  Then I went to a going away party for a young woman here and it was in her apartment.  It was all Romanians and one other American and me.  They cranked up the music and just started dancing.  Kept pulling me up to dance (the other American refused) and yes, they made fun of me and it was extremely awkward, but it was fun.  I hope that I will allow myself to enjoy it more.  There is just something about enjoying song, dance, and laughter at the same time.  It’s intoxicating.  JOY-filling.  My two little boys LOVE dancing and when I read the part in the chapter about Brene’s daughter in the shoe department, I felt the pang of ridicule that little girl must have started to feel and I can only hope that if it was me in Brene’s position, that I would have responded with the courage that she did!

    1. Amy Young May 19, 2014

      I started in the back too 🙂 … but then slowly worked my way over to the left side, front. Easier to see. BUT no matter how much people wanted me front and center, no, no, no. There’s vulnerable and there’s foolish :). Left front was good enough for me :). Glad you’ve found joy in Zumba too!

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