I’m back! (cue James Brown voice)
It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve blogged; in fact, I haven’t blogged since graduating from college (woot woot!). After graduation I moved to Taiwan and worked for the year as an English teacher, as well as a missionary at a church. Now, I’m teaching English and trying to figure how to move forward in life.
Not long after moving to Taiwan, I started taking salsa lessons at a local dance school (shout out to Bailalo). Back in the states, I had friends who danced salsa; a couple of friends in particular always invited me to take classes and go out to salsa clubs with them, but I never did. I’m pretty shy by nature and do not enjoy having lots of attention on me, particularly when I am dancing. We’ll get back to that later.
When I saw the advertisement for bilingual salsa classes, I decided to grab the opportunity and sign up for classes. I wanted to improve my body movement, and I thought this would be a good way to. The social aspect of salsa had never crossed my mind, and it did not occur to me that there was a whole community of salsa/Latin dancers in Taipei. I certainly did not expect that I would come to love dancing as much as I did. In fact, from the very first class, I was hooked. Now, a little over a year later, I’m a regular at many salsa events in the city, and I generally dance at least twice a week.
Salsa classes opened the door to a world of Latin dance. Salsa, bachata, merengue, all of those songs that I used to kind of shuffle around to when they came on at parties in college suddenly make sense to me. But, I also got what I originally wanted from the lessons: improved body movement and decreased dancing insecurity. I still dance to the same hip hop and R&B songs that I would dance to in high school and college, but I no longer dance to them the same way. But what has shocked me more than anything is how much a desire to dance in church has been rekindled and ignited.
1 Corinthians 13:11 says “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” For me, many of my childish things have been wrapped up in insecurities and frankly caring too much about what people think of me.
I grew up in the church, in a family full of pastors, preachers, and ministers. Being a PK puts a peculiar kind of pressure on you, where people simultaneously expect you to be both perfect and a fallen, messed up rebel simply because of who your parents are. I’m not kidding, I literally had people tell me growing up “Pastor’s kids are always the worst behaved” at times, and at other times remind me that I was responsible for representing my family, God, and the church. Now, my point isn’t that I had a particularly troubling childhood: it was filled with ups and downs like any other. My point is that I absorbed these lessons a little too well, and by the time I went to college I was sick of it all.
Most people do not like to do things that they don’t excel in. It’s even harder to watch (many) others excel in something that you try and fail in. For me, dance was like this. Everyone could dance. Everyone. Except me. At least, that’s how it felt growing up. We had a good dance team at our church that most kids participated in at one time or another. Everyone else seemed to have a natural feel for how their bodies should move to the music, whereas mine seemed to jerk about awkwardly. It wasn’t any better at home, where family members could hold their own. I seemed to be the only one that couldn’t dance.
I’ve come to recognize over the last year that a lot (most) of that awkwardness was just insecurity. I can move, but weighted down by the burden of insecurities I could barely lift an arm. After years of hating dance, my parents finally let me quit the dance team when I was around 11 or 12. I continued to love dance but not dancing. I particularly loved to watch praise dance and hip hop. For years, I stayed in a limited box with my dancing. All throughout high school and most of college I never strayed too far from my little two step and a little hip movement. I briefly ventured into the world of choreographed kathak in college, which was fun, but I stopped when I felt like it was getting very difficult, and the other dancers seemed to be grasping it quicker than me.
So, that was it for me for 10 years or so. Until starting salsa classes, that is. By the time I got to college I was sick of my own insecurities, but also the role I had allowed the church to play in those insecurities, so I began the process of intentionally stripping those away. The process accelerated post-college, partially due to my innate love of dancing outweighing and conquering nerves that might have kept me from going out. This love of dancing that I’m discovering even has me wanting to dance in church again. I long to use dance to express my devotion to my Creator, although here in Taipei the options are limited. For now, I have my apartment for that 🙂
Dancing didn’t bring me freedom, but it did signal freedom.
Now, I dance.