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The virtues of dancing, even when people are watching

Woman dancing alone with headphones on

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Jeanne Larghero - published on 06/05/23

Dancing — alone and with others — helps us celebrate the joy of being alive, and reconciles us with our own body.

When 73-year-old rocker Bruce Springsteen gives a concert, people from 7 to 77 dance. When 3-year-old Tony celebrates the end of the kindergarten year dressed as a mushroom, the whole class dances in circles on the stage, and parents take photos. And when King David (2 Samuel 6:14-22) enters Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant, he dances like a goat — and wearing barely more than a goat does: “David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.”

We dance when we’re happy. And when the going gets tough … we dance too!

Let’s get on with the music!

Michal, Saul’s daughter, berates David, who, in her opinion, is dishonoring himself by dancing like that in front of her maids.Mr. Darcy glowers on the pages of Jane Austen’s novel: dancing? For him, even the most academic of ballroom dances is a barbarous practice. And then you may have a shy cousin who stays in the corner, tapping her foot lightly to the rhythm of the music. She’d like to start dancing but doesn’t dare: “I’d look ridiculous. What would people think of me?” But when she’s alone, she dances.

Dancing is a school of reconciliation: reconciliation with our clumsy, awkward body, too much like this or too much like that, but always capable of letting itself be swayed by music.

So, since good summer weather is coming and the opportunities to dance and get people dancing are getting closer, let’s get on with the music! To dance like David is to let the joy of being alive rise through our body. It’s to feel the joy of believing we are loved, the joy of knowing that tomorrow the sun will rise again for us, for the birds of the air and for the lilies of the field (Mt 6:26). 

A school of freedom

Dancing is a school of carefreeness. For a moment, the gaze of others no longer matters. For a moment, worries remain in their place: at the office, at the hospital, at school, but not here. Dancing is a school of reconciliation: reconciliation with our clumsy, awkward body, too much like this or too much like that, but always capable of letting itself be swayed by music. Reconciliation with the one we love: we hold hands again, take each other by the waist, walk with the same step. Dancing is a school of right measure: the right distance, the right pressure, the right position. That’s why it teaches us about relationships.

And dancing is a school of freedom. When our hands raised high to the sky proclaim, without needing to speak, the joy of being together, of celebrating an event, of starting a new adventure — or more profoundly, the joy of being saved — then what others think of us is no longer a concern. Self-shame is relegated to the dustbin of oblivion. Dancing means to accepting yourself as you are — and that’s how God loves us. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)

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