My daughter loves to dance (I too lived to dance when I was her age). Lockdown has been a difficult time for dancers. Long practised-for exams postponed and dance festivals and competitions cancelled. The disappointment is huge when you’re 12 and all you want to do is dance and perform.
In the same way that I’ve had a chance to consider my lockdown running and reflect on what positives I can take from this time as I run towards the future, it’s been a great opportunity to think about what dancing means to you when you can’t join in your usual classes with your dance friends, perform on a stage or compete in any events.
I’ve always known that going to dance lessons is so much more than learning steps and routines. Dance brings so many benefits, particularly for children. I danced throughout my childhood and when I look back I can see how it helped me in so many ways. I know how hard it was for my parents to pay for my dance lessons and I will be eternally grateful that they did.
The biggest thing it gave me was confidence. The ability to control my nerves and to not fall apart when faced with an audience and to actually enjoy it. To be able to lift my head and my eyes, to stand tall and to switch into performance mode. Posture, poise and self-belief. This has been invaluable in the work I now do, presenting at conferences, giving talks and doing online and sometimes TV and radio work.
The other main lesson and this was a hard one to learn, is that you have to work hard to be excellent. Discipline, practice and consistency, nothing replaces them. The upset when things don’t go your way, the fatigue when you have to keep getting up and trying again and the realisation that absolutely nothing replaces hard work, there are no short cuts. This is a lesson that has served me very well in my life and career and developing a sound work ethic.
One benefit that I see in my daughter and particularly during this lockdown period is how amazing dance is at helping look after mental health. Amidst the chaos of school closures, distancing from friends and general life anxiety, dance has been something to cling on to. A lifeline offering respite and consistency in a choppy ocean. Thanks to her amazing dance school Laura Sandham School of Dance, classes have continued online by Zoom. Having the set lesson times has added routine, made each day a little different when it’s easy for all the days to feel the same. It’s been an opportunity to see her dance friends and teachers and know that her ‘dance family’ is still there and supporting her. It’s also a way to get a boost of endorphins to calm nerves and lift mood. When you’re dancing and concentrating there’s no space for anything else and worries are put to one side. We all need something right now to help see us through this tricky time.
As I see my daughter discovering these things. I know that my hard earned money is well spent. She may not have a career in dance, in fact she may not want to dance forever (although that seems unlikely right now!) and that’s fine. I know she will have gained so much from it that will serve her well in the future and I’m so grateful for what it’s giving her right now.
So, to all the dancers out there who have had their dance exams and festivals cancelled; ones that you’ve worked so hard for so many months for. Remember:
Dance isn’t just measured in grades, medals and certificates. It’s measured in the joy in your heart, the singing of your soul and the width of your smile. In the glow of your pride, the twinkle in your eyes and the tingle in your spine. Dance in your bedroom, your kitchen, your garden. Dance in your online class. Dance like no one is watching or dance like the world is watching. Just don’t stop dancing.Dr Juliet McGrattan
What benefits has dancing brought to you or your children? Do leave me a comment and share the power of dance.
Image: Dancer courtesy of Arusha’s Images Photography and with the dancer’s permission of course. Presentation: Female Athlete Conference, Boston courtesy of 261 Fearless.