Time to Dance

I’ve been lucky enough to have 2 wonderful experiences in the last week which have helped me to once again see the power of movement, music and dance! One was doing a talk and practical session for the St Johns Winter School – matric students from both Masibambane College in Orange Farm, and from Barnato Park in Berea, both schools serving very disadvantaged communities. The other was joining a Secret Sunset on the rooftop of the Children’s Memorial Institute for Mandela Day where people from all walks of life came together to celebrate Mandela and his legacy, to have fun and to connect with strangers in a way we seldom do, as well as to raise money for the Children’s Memorial Institute.

During my sessions with the beautiful and enthusiastic learners from the St Johns Winter school, we spoke a lot about the importance of movement on our bodies and for decreasing our stress. That movement could be participating in a team sport, or it could be running, walking, yoga (stretching) or even dance – a 1 minute dance break is enough to make a world of difference to how you feel! There are so many health benefits to dance that I won’t go into now, but if you’re interested just Google it and get inspired! And dancing helps us not to take ourselves and the world so seriously!

Something else that we brought into our dance was the Power Poses taught by Amy Cuddy in her fabulous TED talk – well worth watching and passing on! Amy Cuddy researches body language and nonverbal expressions of power and she discusses how adopting certain ‘power poses’ for 2 minutes can increase our testosterone levels and risk appetite, and can decrease our cortisol levels! Leaving us feeling more powerful and less stressed! Adopting these ‘power poses’ also made people perform better in job interviews – Amy Cuddy advocates “faking it until you become it”! These ‘power poses’ are all postures of “opening up”, arms outstretched or hands behind heads or on hips (think Wonder Woman!) – postures that are naturally adopted during dancing and yoga! And these poses are so in contrast to the poses that keep us small – the ones of closing down, looking down at our phones, even sitting at our computers all day. Those poses elicited more cortisol and less testosterone and left participants feeling powerless and negative. So it’s no wonder that we feel wonderful after dancing or doing yoga, or any exercise which makes us stretch and “open up” – we’ve actually changed our biochemistry in just a couple of minutes.

And Secret Sunrise or in this case, Secret Sunset, is a “proudly South African” group who put on fabulous dawn or sunset “parties” on rooftops around Joburg (and other cities – some even internationally!). They combine yoga, mindfulness, gratitude, dance and play into a very fun and invigorating hour! And you don’t need to have any experience in any of those to really enjoy it and to get so much out of it! Take a friend, or your children, and when you leave you feel like you’ve had a good dose of “soul food”. And you will have taken an active step towards healing South Africa – by connecting with and really “seeing” other people. As a friend of mine said afterwards “My whole team loved it! They said that if they’d read about it before, they wouldn’t have wanted to go. But being there, was amazing, indescribable!”

But start by having a dance break in your own home, in the car or for teachers – in the classroom! Do it by yourself in the bathroom. Do it with your family in the kitchen. Definitely do it with your children – they’re up for a dance break anytime, anywhere! Put on some music that makes you want to dance, or makes you feel powerful! This is so important for our teens and children before studying, or on the morning of an exam, speech or presentation. Or for us when we’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or like we’re “not good enough”. As Amy Cuddy says, these ‘power poses’ and dance moves help us to put our best selves forward and to bring our presence fully to what we’re doing!

A few of the songs on my ‘Dance Break’ playlist are Firework (Katy Perry), Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen), Fight Song (Rachel Platten), I Was Here (Beyoncé), I Am Woman (Helen Reddy an oldie but a goodie), Best Day of My Life (American Authors), among many more. Let me know in the comments on my website or Facebook if you have other favourites. It’s great to share the inspiration and fun!

And think of dancing next time you’re feeling like you need more energy and power!



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