Dancing -a way to be mindful of the ego

I’ve been reflecting a fair bit about this concept this week, as we draw closer to the Body Awareness Workshop.  It has been interesting feeling the hesitation people have about expressing themselves through movement. When it comes to freedance people suddenly become VERY hesitant to step in.  Why is that?  I think I can chop it down to a few reasons:

1.     I don’t want to look stupid

2.     I can’t dance

3.     I wont know what to do

4.     I’m too self-conscious

All of which seems to come under the umbrella of “Everyone will look at me and judge me the worst dancer EVER and I will be so ashamed I wont possibly be able to live the rest of my life without feeling so inadequate”.

Hahahaha - this just makes me crack up!  It’s just so SERIOUS.  In Nia we learn to be playful again.  We have fun, we experiment and we learn something about ourselves. 

Perhaps we could dispel all of this hesitation with a new view of what dance is.  What is dance? Who decides when it is “good” and when it is “bad”? Perhaps if we called it ‘creative-movement’, there would be less resistance? But still, there is something else there, that makes people pull back.

To tell the truth, this piece has been a challenge for me to write because it boils down to an often, offensive subject - the ego.  From writing this I really feel great empathy to those of you who have found it hard enough to just step into Nia – thank-you for your courage to try something new and to move. I do understand.

But… without wanting to offend anybody with my bluntness - this is all a big ego trip!  Let me explain.

My ability to express myself through dance was cultivated from when I was young.  I was introduced to dancing to crowds by doing cultural dancing to an audience. I knew I was good at it, my ego thrived on the attention – to step in was easy.  But I do recall a path when it was hard.  Later, I was part of a theatre group and I was labelled a “non-dancer”.  That is, I didn’t get the jazz steps, I had no idea how to tap dance and I couldn’t move beyond shaking my hips. Consequently, I took dance lessons in tap, hip hop and jazz.

I now recognise this inner drive to “improve” myself, was really a way to “prove” myself.  All of this was for my ego.  It liked being good at stuff - it didn’t like being the worst.  If it was found wanting, it would work hard to make sure it wouldn’t be in that position again. For years, I danced on and off with little real commitment until I came across Nia.

Nia was different to other things I had done. In Nia we are not moving to show everyone else that we can do it well.  We are not there to compare ourselves to others – it is not a competition!  There are no rewards for being the “best” in the room.  Nor is there any punishment if you “do it wrong”.  And… well…there is no wrong in Nia. There is only Your Body’s Way -the unique way in which you move, which will always be right for you.

So I’ve come to this realisation that both the need to impress AND the shying away, are the flip-sides of the same thing – the ego. What started as an ego trip, dancing has now become one way for me to be mindful of the ego.  When I find myself dancing to impress, I know my ego is seeking recognition.  When I find myself hesitating, I know my ego is scared it will get judged unworthy and be left bruised.  When I find the place where I am moving, without thought of others, but in total connection with my own body, I feel great energetic creativity, peace, joy and freedom. 

Stepping in to something that your heart agrees with should be easy.  The only thing that complicates things is your ego. There should be no push from the ego to go forward, nor any pull from the ego to back away. What is your real intention for being here or not being here, now? In Nia (and across life) I like the intention of ‘stepping in to discover something new about myself’.  Feel free to share this intention with me!

I’ll leave you with a quote from Martha Graham – one of the founders of Modern Dance who said

Nobody cares if you can’t dance well.  Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion”


I agree.

Photo courtesy of Kanaka Menehune