It’s Friday night in 2012 and the lights are low…
My five-year-old daughter is dressed in a pink leotard with a shiny black traditional skirt wrapped around her waist—the one she wore for a Children’s Day performance at her Chinese preschool. She tugs on my shirt and says, “Mama, let’s dance!”
Tonight we get our dance party started with “Kungfu Fighting.” My oldest son flings his arms wildly and kicks his legs, karate-chopping our couch. Meanwhile, my 10-month old is steadying himself on the side of a chair doing a little boogy-woogy dance-thing.
We all dance to “Hound Dog” and after that, “My Sharona.” With exaggerated motions we sing to “Deep and Wide”, “His Banner Over Me is Love”, and finish off with some old school DC Talk “Luv is a Verb.” We shimmy, we slide, we jump and giggle to the music blasting in our tiny apartment.
The kids want more. They are laughing and falling over themselves, as my husband and I wrap our arms around each other and slow dance to “You Make Beautiful Things.”
On any given weekend you will find our family dancing—doesn’t matter if we have guests or not—oh yeah, they’ll be joining the dance party!
Truth is, I feel happy when I dance, even if I’m sad. Does that make sense? No matter how I’m feeling, dancing gives my feelings movement to the sounds around me.
We all know that dancing can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones and muscles and increase flexibility. It’s also great for balance and coordination. But did you know dancing is good for your mental health? Research shows that dancing improves memory, gives us a “mental break,” and improves our mood. Dancing can reduce stress, anxiety, depression or feelings of isolation. Hmmmm, sounds like dancing could relieve some of that cross-cultural stress you might be feeling.
Years ago, my husband and I experienced an event that broke our hearts. When we got the news about a friend, we had some quiet worship music playing in the background. He grabbed my hand and pulled me up next to him. We started dancing, slowly to a song we both loved. Though dancing didn’t change our situation, it helped me through a difficult moment, allowing me to connect with my husband and cope with my feelings.
From then on, we randomly began incorporating dance into our lives—especially during periods of high stress like moving to a new country. When our kids came along, we found dancing as a family to be a fun way to connect, exercise, and de-stress. Over the years all sorts of folks have joined our dance parties: colleagues, teammates, visiting friends and family, along with local friends who busted out their own moves. You know who you are!
Our kids are older now, but they STILL speak fondly of our dance parties. In fact, if a week or two has gone by without a dance party, they make it happen. The musical choices have broadened, but their silliness and joy haven’t changed. We have found dancing to be such a healthy and nourishing activity, both in moments of celebration or at the end of a tough day when words just won’t do.
I visited our old home in Asia about six months ago. It was my first time back in a few years, and I had a blast soaking up every single moment I could with our amazing local friends in the place we had called home for many years. When I met back up with my husband in another city, we caught up on all that happened while we were apart- my trip to our old home and his time speaking at a conference.
As we rapid-fired our highlights and shared how God had been working in us over those few days, I could tell we were both getting more and more emotional. With tears in our eyes and full hearts, we danced slowly. For us, it was the only way to express the emotions we felt about missing our old home while also being excited about new things. Dancing spoke the words we couldn’t find, a solemn prayer.With strange relief, I smiled through tears.
So friends, just dance! Dance when the moment moves you. Dance when you are sad. Dance when you are happy. Dance because you don’t know what to do next. Shake your head, bob your shoulders, and kick up your heels! Move and turn prayerfully, freely, the way you want. Go ahead, just dance!
Do you incorporate dancing into your life? Share with our community what dancing means to you and song suggestions!