Imagine it’s a Saturday night. You’re out at a nice restaurant celebrating your friend’s birthday. The band is playing. The place is crowded but no one is dancing. Everyone is chilling and then suddenly your friend comes over and wants you to dance with them. Oh Jeez! Your friend is quite pretty and attractive and at the same time a great dancer too. You, on the other hand, do not miss a chance to objectively call yourself an awful dancer. The thought that you two would be literally the only ones on the dance floor with a lot of people sitting around and watching you makes you pause and take a deep breath for a second.
While half of us fall in the category of saying no to dancing like that, there also are some people who will jump on the chance. Well, let’s all thank our stars that some people gather their courage and just dance with whoever asks them to. Because let’s be honest, it’s these people who make everyone else get up and get on the dance floor later on.
It seems like everyone wants to dance but just needs someone else to be the first one to get up and go on the dance floor. Or maybe it’s easier to go on the dance floor when you see someone who looks stupid enough for you to get zero attention for looking the same way. But you may also want to bail them out by averting the attention to you. In both cases, there are some people who feel the insecurity and doubt creep in and have a harder time to get on the dance floor.
When did we stop dancing like nobody’s watching?
African groups danced to connect with each other. Through group dancing, they created a bonding and a ‘language’ between them. Babies and kids move around the second they hear music, expressing what they hear into a movement. Jumping up and down, swinging and turning around, childhood was a great time. No fear of judgement was attached to anything that we do.
We have forgotten to play. We also have forgotten to be kids, haven’t we? To do things we love — just because. Sitting in bed scrolling through our Instagram feed, we may often wonder to ourselves, why aren’t we reading a book instead. At times we set a deadline and start a conversation and an hour may go by. We realize it’s past our bedtime and we plug in our phone and start the noise machine.
We promised ourselves to meditate and get some reading done tomorrow. But as soon as the next morning comes, we are off and running again only to find ourselves in the bed immersed in mindless scrolling that night. Why is that? Why do we need the brain drain?
We all can agree to the fact that when we were kids, we loved to listen to music, write in our journals (about the boy/girl that we met), read books, sometimes flip through magazines to find new styles, learn new skills, draw, play an instrument, sing loudly (even if we were out of tune and flat), dance like maniacs, sit next to streams and just listen, laugh out loud… We loved to do the simple things, the quiet things, and at some point, we all grew up to never consider doing all these things as naturally as we used to before. Dancing definitely is one of the top things we stopped doing as freely as we used to when we were kids.
We get wrapped up being an adult. We go hard at work all day. We think about work even when we are not at work. We tend to make excuses for not having time to learn new things. We don’t take time to just breathe or meditate or dance freely with all our hearts. We get caught up in the world outside of our own online. We simply have stopped making time to feel the innocence we used to feel when we were kids. When we grow older why do we stop bursting into the happiness of moving our bodies? We do like it, but we do not make time for it.
Maybe, as earlier mentioned, it is because we start judging and thinking about how other people perceive us. We focus on how we LOOK instead of how we FEEL while we are dancing.
Judgement, Judgement, Judgement
The good folks at Northumbria University sparked a discussion about how dance is often used as a form of courtship. They say even if you are not trying to find a life mate through social dancing, there is a strong intimacy component to it. And people often become judgemental about moving their bodies and often relate it to shame.
We do think of dancing and moving our body around, trying to be sexy, as vulnerable acts. And in all fairness, they are kind of. Because what if we do a bad job at it? People will think we look stupid. We might get rejected and that way we might end up embarrassed. This fear of embarrassment often tends to make people stiff and uncomfortable on the dance floor.
Come to think of it, dance is not always embraced. There are tons of stories of high schools banning dance for one reason or the other. Wikipedia has a dedicated page to explain ‘dancing ban’. Further, Pablo Solomon, an artist and former teacher at the Houston Contemporary Dance Theater, says that many of his students because of their past with dance had to learn to overcome stiffness and awkwardness of suppressing their guilt and fear on the top of teaching their bodies to move in time with the music.
So overcoming the potential embarrassment of dancing led to more growth than usual. When you are already embarrassed and full of fear of being ridiculed you think that any attempt at the movement is awaiting some sort of horrible repercussions. The students needed to feel relaxed and then only they would be able to find rhythm easier.
Embarrassment and the fear of judgement can be considered as the biggest reasons why people do not openly dance on events. After practice, people can get a good sense of rhythm and still because of the judgement involved, putting them into a situation like the one we mentioned at the beginning of this article, will be some bad business.
That’s definitely not because they don’t understand the rhythm but rather because the idea of moving without choreography in a sexy way fills them with embarrassment. So people look like an awkward weirdo because they’re so self-conscious about every move.
Not everyone feels the same way about dancing though. But the risk of potential judgement often outweighs the rewards of dance for many people. We will also discuss the rewards of dancing soon in this article. If everyone really could dance like nobody’s watching they’d be a lot better off. But why is it that some people just can’t dance? Is it true that some people cannot dance? And even if it’s true, what are the factors responsible for it?
Is it true that some people just can’t dance?
We have been to one social gathering or the other where we witness one hard truth: some people just can’t dance. And that makes us curious about its reasons. Is there any scientific reason why some people cannot dance? Yes, there is. Some people can’t feel the beat. And it can be fixed. Because the rhythm is going to get you.
Globally, we can see many cultures that have incorporated some form of dance. This can be attributed to the fact that rhythm can naturally affect us. When we hear the music we like, or even the music we hate but has a pretty catchy beat, our body wants to move in time with the rhythm. Of course, we won’t break into a moonwalk but almost everyone would nod their heads or tap their toes unconsciously with the music. That’s true even for a fetus. So when moms talk about babies who kick around when songs come on, it’s true. And even a study found out that babies can detect rhythm in the womb.
But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Some musicians have complained about the audience clapping off-beat to their songs. These musicians include Pharrel and Justin Bieber. Finding the beat is not always natural. That may not include all the dads on the dance floor, who look like they’ve never heard of the concept called rhythm though!
But for a small portion of people, the lack of rhythm has a name: BEAT DEAFNESS. A study from a reputed university also found out that three per cent of people suffer from a disease where they can’t perceive music through either timing, pitch, or rhythm. And even a smaller percentage of the amusical people are considered ‘beat deaf’.
So you or our friend who cannot dance may probably not be beat deaf. Because the chances of being beat deaf are extremely low and rare. But this banter has sure led to our understanding that while nearly all humans have some sense of rhythm as they can nod their head and tap their feet to the beat, at the same time, that doesn’t mean that everyone will have a good sense of rhythm.
Musicians like Justin Bieber have not yelled at bad clappers for nothing. Bad clappers clapped to the beat but they just did not clap to the right beat for the style of the music. As soon as he stopped the song and corrected the audience, they could do it correctly. This proves that people can find a basic beat with a little guidance, it’s just that they never tried to learn.
If you give yourself enough time, even if you belong to the most challenged, you can develop your rhythm sense at any age. And if you can find a rhythm, you can dance to the beat. It just requires practice. There are no people who cannot dance. Everyone can learn to dance because it’s an inherent quality to give in to the beat.
Why should you dance like nobody’s watching, again?
Regardless of who you are, an athlete or someone who irks at the thought of stepping on a treadmill, you are likely to be able to bust a move and have fun doing so. But dance has more to it than just the fun factor. It has some special hidden benefits that you may not ever have given much thought to. For instance, dance therapy for couples to reignite the spark in their relationship is becoming a very popular option these days.
At present, there is no stopping the boom of popularity in dancing for exercise. It can be done from the comfort of your own home. It also allows you to express yourself. And to top it all, it doesn’t require any fancy or even expensive equipment. Some good music, your body and your partner (if you are going for a partner dance).
Dancing is not only an excellent physical exercise. It also is a strong mental exercise. Consider some dance forms like Bachata, Waltz, or Tango, it makes sense. You have to learn how technical some forms of dance are. You have to learn specific steps and routines. And during performances, you have to be constantly thinking about the next steps.
Even studies confirm the benefits dance can have on the brain. One even went on to look at the MRI scans of the older people and determined that dance helps in increasing the amount of white matter in the brain. With age, white matter degrades and is considered to be a factor in cognitive decline. Dance helping the increase in the white matter could also help prevent the onset of diseases such as Dementia or Alzheimers.
As earlier mentioned, even therapists have prescribed dancing as an effective form of therapy for social anxiety. If people can feel confident enough, chances are they are going to feel less self-conscious in front of others. So dance is good for you in every way. If you are interested in strengthening your dancing skills, go ahead, Dance Incubation is offering a free videos series, where you will learn how to move your body in 3 every day situations. It’s both fun, and a very different take on how you can actually incorporate dancing in your everyday life without taking classes, spend an extreme amount of time OR even leave your house.
Reasons why ‘Dance like nobody’s watching’ is the best advice of all time
You no longer worry about what will people think
So people won’t stop watching. They probably are or maybe they are not, but who cares? If someone is playing a nice piece of Bachata music how can you expect NOT to break it down? It shouldn’t be like that, should it? This seemingly small or probably foolish action, according to some people, can serve as a learning tool. It’s all about how to stop worrying that strangers are judging you. You know what? Let them, if they are at all.
You understand that life is too short to be reluctant to have a good time
We all have heard it at some point or the other or read it ourselves. It’s the truth — life is very short and very unpredictable. If you want to break into a fast dance, let it happen. Do you really want to regret that you did not let loose at the time you are going to be bed-ridden and old?
You discover dancing as a great form of exercise
Exercise gives you endorphins. And dance is a form of exercise. So dance gives you endorphins which is the chemical responsible for happiness. In Elle Woods words, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
You realize it might help with uplifting your mood
While dancing might not fix your depression, it can uplift your mood. It helps you lift spirits and help a little on the sad days.
You get to communicate and express yourself in a non-verbal way
Well, even if you are dancing in your bedroom, it becomes an unconventional way of communicating and expressing yourself. You can emote with just your movements. Everyone should experience this — dance like it’s just you and nobody else. You might be surprised at what happens at that time. Your body will tell you different and new things.
How to dance like nobody’s watching
So the quote goes like “You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening and live like it’s heaven on earth.” But does this mean that you have to dance in the dark where no one can see? Or does it mean that you have to indulge in an alcoholic beverage to lower your inhibitions and awareness of watching you? No, there is more to it.
It means to dance free from judgement, criticism or fear of what others might think. It means to be present and not overwhelmed or consumed by others’ expectations. It means to focus on why you would want to dance in the first place — for fun, for connection, for expression, for yourself, and for your loved ones.
Like we discussed earlier, nowadays, it seems that there is someone watching our each and every move. We have started posting our lives on social media and opened ourselves up to praise and criticism. So it might seem rare to keep moments to yourself. But there is also power in the self-reflection that takes place when you engage in the movement for yourself and no one else.
So how is it that we are asked to dance like nobody’s watching when everyone actually is? How can we embrace this practice when it is our job to perform in front of others? How can a dancer or even a dance educator like us apply this whole dance like nobody’s watching principle to our dance performance, career, and even life outside dance?
Dance for yourself
One reason that people do not embrace dance and the whole idea of dancing like nobody’s watching is that they do not dance for themselves. Dance for you! It does not mean that you do it by yourself and with no other around you but rather you do it without expectation of praise from others. Dance is about connecting with yourself, your passion, and your own desire to move from the places that words would never help you express. It’s about you being able to do all of this.
It’s at this point, we may start to think that we don’t really know how to engage in dance unless it is accompanied by praise or external validation, isn’t it? But the whole point is to understand the reason that you started dancing in the first place. Was it to impress others or was it to build your self-confidence or create a more intimate relationship with your loved one? Be clear about it. Then if you are just at the beginning of your journey to learn dancing, start finding the rhythms and the music that moves you and allow them to take over your body. You have to do it until you are in the flow and the zone where time disappears comes in the play. Dance is about feeling good. There is no other form of expression that will do justice to how you are feeling, release tension, and let go because you can. These are enough reasons to dance for you.
Dance to paint a story
Another way to embrace the idea of dancing like nobody’s watching is to consider using authentic movement or choreography to convey a message. For example focusing on illustrating a point or telling a story; it can be a personal story too. Dancing as a means of expression is not only a way to communicate and create a deeper connection to yourself but also create a connection with your loved one. This will ultimately make it easier to dance free from judgement because who would be there to argue your own feelings, thoughts, or even personal stories?
You need to allow your movements to express the emotions behind the story. Scientifically too, using your body language is 80 per cent of the communication we take part in every day. Dancing will help you to learn to polish that skill and it will enable all the ways that you share who you are with the world.
Dance for connection and intimacy
Like we have mentioned in some bits and pieces previously too, dancing, apart from just your own pleasure or to convey your own message, is about connecting with others too. Dance can help to strengthen bonds as well as build new ones. Dance for sure has the ability to transcend race, culture, gender, and religion.
It’s evident from dances like Bachata, Waltz, Tango, Salsa, that cultures can be preserved and sustained through dance. A dance therapist goes on to tell that they have seen dance build empathy, compassion, and trust among people who were looking for acceptance and belonging.
In the end, it is all about connecting to your movements in a way that validates your existence. If the dance you choose to learn with your loved one is an authentic expression of yourself, it will provide you with a sense of freedom and release that nothing else can.
As for those who take online courses for Bachata or any dance choreography that is created by someone else, you can find that practicing this principle, will strengthen your ability to communicate with others. You will be able to leave a lasting impression on others not because you seek validation but because of the passion and emotion oozing from your soul.
Over to you!
The quote that we earlier mentioned, “You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening and live like it’s heaven on earth” are also speculated to appear as lyrics in a hit song from 2006 and they still resonate. It’s simple by the book. It’s about taking risks, being bold, showing confidence, enjoying each day.
Here’s a bunch of final suggestions for people who are eager to dance like nobody’s watching:
Take online dance classes over physical ones. With Dance Incubation, you can opt for a 6-week online Bachata dance course, and check for yourself how warm, comfortable & 100% non-judgmental the atmosphere is at home.
When your dance partner offers comments, take them positively. Your dance partner isn’t all about criticizing what you are doing. They are simply offering tips and pointers on how you can improve. It’s for the good of both of you.
Learn from your mistakes. Whatever you learn in life, a new skill like dance or any other skill, the way to improve is to learn from your mistakes. In life that’s the way to go. Dancing involves muscle memory so consider each one opportunity to get better.
Take a video of yourself dancing. If you can review how you are dancing more often you will be able to see if you’re hesitating about dancing or not. You can take videos and later on compare them with the videos you shoot at present and become a more confident performer with time.
Keep smiling. If you enjoy dancing, you’ll grow more and more comfortable & confident with the dances you’re learning. Looking at you smiling, even your dance partner will appreciate that feeling of sharing in your happiness and you will bask in that shared glow.
You know you can dance like there’s nobody watching (because really, nobody is).