“Will you come out and play with me?”
This is what we used to say at the door of a friend’s house in my generation when we were elementary school kids. I remember climbing trees, roller skating through the neighborhood, making up games and what I later came to understand as enjoying being in the moment.
A dance friend who is also a teacher and performing artist talked with me yesterday (you know who you are!) and said this same line about how she feels when she is sharing with others about an opportunity to engage and connect to enjoy her vocal performances. There is a vulnerability when we ask other adults to join us to play – whether it is dance or otherwise – based on the risk that we will be rejected for whatever reason.
When we engage in the arts together – no matter what the art form is – it awakens the child-like part of us that quite frankly does not get its due as we live our grown-up lives.
Let’s face it, being a grown-up involves a whole lot of things that look and feel nothing like play. Our daily lives in the Land of Adult Responsibility often involve lots of should’s, have-to’s, need to’s and for some, a reduced amount of want-to’s. We get so used to living in this space of denial of our desires that it can be rough to create the time and space and plan to resources to make want-to’s a priority and reality. If the typical tightness in my jaw after a day of work could talk, it would say much about the should’s, have-to’s, and need to’s.
The Land of Adult Responsibility is ruled by the Law of Practicality which tells us that we must be sensible about what we do; maturity is contingent on being practical. It makes me think of when my then-boyfriend told me to stop dancing when I was in college and grow up. The basic message was that play, creativity and exploration were inherent to the territory of childhood and not to be confused with the work of adulthood.
My truth is that I feel joyful in my creative work with adults as I bear witness to the playful side of themselves that perhaps is just now getting its due. What I love is knowing that these adults have given themselves permission to dance as an internal blessing or grace granted for being present in the moment, knowing that it is risky but that the vulnerability is worth it.
What do adults get for taking that risk to dance? What do they say about the experience? I asked my dance class last Thursday to list words to describe how they felt after moving together and here is what they wrote:
- excited about possibilities
- planning mind on pause
- deliciously spent
This list makes me think of a beautiful statement made by one of my alumni who says that dance is a wonderful way to be in your body and to be human. If it is not dance for you, then find out whatever it is for you – that will give you the sense of release through play.
If you are wondering how my jaw felt after dancing, you already know the answer.