Dance has always been a passion of mine. Starting from about the age of three, I did tap, ballet and jazz. I even competed for a while and absolutely loved it. Somewhere around my junior year of high school, however, I started to let my school commitments take priority and I was unfortunately resigned to denying myself the pleasure of dance. Fast forward to now, and I’m realizing how much I’ve missed having an outlet to express myself that wasn’t related to reading or writing. Recently, I’ve come to terms that I will likely never be the professional dancer and choreographer that I once imagined when I was younger; however, dance can still be a part of my life. So how can I make that fit into my current situation?
Social dancing is a lot of fun and always a good workout. I love to dance salsa and bachata even though I struggle with making eye contact and taking direction from my partner (no surprise there). In NYC, there seems to always be events for any day of the week as well as discounts for people who arrive or register early. I don’t have any friends to go with usually, so I like to just go for the lessons that they offer at the beginning and then decide whether or not I want to stay. Honestly, that whole wait on the perimeter and wait for someone to ask you to dance can be a total blow to one’s confidence if you allow it. There are also a few studios that hold drop in classes where you can practice social dancing, so that is something I want to look in to.
Taking dance classes is my second avenue for getting dance into my life. While there’s so many options in NYC, the prices all seem to be crazy expensive. The highest I’ve paid is $25 for an hour and the lowest was $13 for an hour–both were enjoyable experiences. The best deal I’ve gotten is $17 (with a student discount) for an hour and a half. Heels/street stilettos is my current obsession–sit in that hip! I’ve dabbled with joining a team so that I can ensure that I show up to a class on a regular schedule, but as of yet nothing has worked out. Either the location didn’t work out or I just didn’t vibe with the people. Sigh….
When I tell people that dance is one of my hobbies, they usually look in disbelief and say “How do you have time for that?” Honestly, I just chose to dance while other folks watch ‘Stranger Things.’ Further, it’s actually not that strange for scholars to have creative hobbies or to apply their creative side to their academic work especially within the field of anthropology. I’ll never forget Gina Ulysse’s talk at University of Michigan where she began with a poem that she recited as she glided through the side aisle of the conference room. Aime Cox is a former Alvin Ailey dancer, and when she gave a guest lecture in my class, she ‘stretched us out’ before we began. Law professor, Khiara Bridges is a professional ballet dancer (bu.edu). Katherine Dunham studied black dance traditions in the Diaspora and pioneered the first ‘self-supporting dance company’ in the United States (chicago.edu).
These women’s example shows that creative and academic pursuits don’t have to be an either/or. Instead, doing both is like giving yourself permission to be all of who you are no matter how unconventional it may seem. If it feels good to you–do that and then do it some more. I’m confident that going back to dance will make me a better, happier and more inspired student.