Dancing the Way Back to Joy

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As a mother—especially of four—it’s easy to feel like my body is not my own. Not only have I had four little ones who’ve needed so much of me physically over the last 13 years, but my body is very different than it was pre-mamahood. Add a divorce on top of that, and it makes for an even bigger challenge to feel lively and beautiful in my own skin again.

I’ve never been much of a gym-goer, and I love yoga but don’t practice nearly enough. It wasn’t until I stepped into the ballroom of a mansion in Monte Vista for my first swing dance lesson that I started to feel a real sense of joy and ownership over my body again.

The first time I walked into a lesson, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I’d never done any kind of dancing before, but I was up for anything. I was in the middle of my divorce and needed something to decompress and get myself back out into the world. I had seen the event on Facebook, and something about it spoke to me, so I mustered up the courage and ventured out solo.

I paid for my ticket at the table in front of the grand staircase and walked upstairs to a room full of people nervously waiting for their first dance lesson. The instructors, a husband and wife duo, walked us through the basic steps, and we rotated partners trying out our dancing feet for the next hour. I stumbled along as I tried to wrap my mind around the movements I was attempting. Soon my mind and body were in sync, and I was dancing!

The real fun began when the lesson was over and the live band came on. Everyone was dressed to the nines, the jazz music blared, and the floor was hopping. Ladies twirled across the dance floor, guys strutted their stuff, and I jumped in and out of the wave of dancers, testing out my new moves with each willing fellow.

The movement and music and laughter and floor stomping filled the mansion with an electric air, and I was hooked. I was beaming all night long even though I didn’t know a person in the room—I knew I had found my place. I left that night with my heart aflutter, eager for a second date with the dance floor.

I returned to the lessons every week after, perfecting my moves, making friends with my dance partners. My feet blistered and ached at the end of every night, but I couldn’t wait to go back every Thursday evening. I asked for tips on which shoes were best for dancing and soon started venturing out to other events. I’ve been dancing for six months now, and I go out dancing every chance I get.

Joseph Campbell once said, “Find a place where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” I was in the middle of one of the hardest times of my life when I started dancing, and swing opened the floodgates of joy. Like a runner who’s compelled to run at every opportunity, I grow restless if I go without dancing too long. And when I hear the peal of a trumpet or the beat of a drum, my feet start to tap and dancing must be done.

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I started off dancing as an escape from the stresses of life, as my “me time” when the kids were off with their dad. I’ve started bringing the kids along when with me now—partly because I want to get in as much dancing as possible, but also because I want to share my passion with them.

My oldest son fell in love with it right away. I took him to his first lesson at the Brick, and he immediately asked when we could come back. I’m thrilled to see his excitement, but it fills my heart even more that he’s not too embarrassed to dance with his dear old mom. I can see that same joy in his eyes and know that I’ve helped spark something inside him—maybe even a way for him to help burn off some of the pain of divorce. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t imagine a lifetime of dancing for me and my kids.

My feet have acclimated and don’t blister quite so much anymore—and the heaviness of divorce has lifted with this expanded breath of life and newfound joy of dancing in my own skin. It’s a new chapter with new experiences, and I’m thrilled to have found a rich community of dancers that has welcomed me into their fold and shown me the way forward, one dance step at a time.

There was a time when I would have been the one watching the dance floor at parties, dying to get out there and come to life, a wallflower on the sideline. Now I don’t hesitate to ask a partner to the dance floor with everyone else looking on. Joy doesn’t come without taking that first step, and I’m jumping right on in.

If you’re interested in learning to swing dance yourself, visit Alamo City Swing Revival or San Antonio Swing Dance Society and come say hi on the dance floor!

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