When you are dancing, your intention can be many things—you may want to express the music through your body, you may want to be in the moment so you forget everything that you are anxious about, you may want to burn calories. Whatever your intention is, one of these things or all of these things or something completely different, the underlying truth of your intention to dance is the fact that in some way you are taking care of yourself.
And when you take care of yourself, it is an act of self-love.
Many times when I would go to dance class as a student, I would run into criticism—“Don’t you have other things to do that are more important right now?” “You seem tired, are you sure this is the best thing for you to do?” (Surely everyone else knows what’s best for me) “I could really use your help right now!” Sometimes, in the past, I would succumb to the shame (since, obviously, there were no other times – other than during my dance class -- that I could help someone); other times I would slink away to guiltily get my dance fix.
And try to not look so happy when I got home.
Over the years I have heard from some clients that their partners were a little jealous of their taking time to go to dance class. Others have told me that when they get a little bitchy at home, their partners will say, gently, “Gee honey, maybe it’s time for you to go to dance class? Can I drive you…?” These partners understand that joy begets joy and refueling in dance class means that the whole family can breathe a sigh of relief.
When we love ourselves, it is not selfish. It is not a form of conceit or of not caring about anyone else. Loving ourselves is the reason we can love others. Selfishness is an attribute of self-loathing. Loving ourselves makes us more generous, not less generous with our time.
When you are on an airplane and the oxygen mask unfurls, you need to put it on yourself first. Even the airlines know you have to take care of yourself before you can help anyone else.
For me, dance is my oxygen mask.