As I may have mentioned somewhere before, I love to dance. I regularly attend lessons and social dances for East Coast Swing (Lindy Hop), West Coast Swing, and Latin dancing (Salsa/Bachata/Merengue). As an introvert, I find that dancing is when I feel the most connected to people. I can be around large groups without freaking out because I’m only connecting to one person at any given time. At the same time, though, I get to dance with about 20-30 people at each event, meaning I’m spending time and getting in tune with multiple people over a short amount of time without exhausting myself. Dance keeps me sane; all of my other hobbies, including (or especially) writing, tend to keep me far too wrapped up in my own head to be healthy. And yet, I recently realized that one of the dance styles I love actually helps me with my writing.
All dancing tells a story (whether it’s an enjoyable/aesthetically pleasing one is up to the ability of the dancers) through the music and the musical interpretations of the dancers. East Coast Swing and Salsa definitely help me tell a story, but I’ve found that as they are more upbeat, fast, and based on established forms and patterns, the tale in my head doesn’t develop as much nuance and complexity as I would like. Faster dances (of the unchoreographed variety) don’t really allow for much time to think or react to the music, so it doesn’t help me with my stories as much. West Coast Swing, on the other hand, tends to be slower. There are a few basic steps and turns, but the majority of the dance is focused on improvisation: feeling the beat, listening to the lyrics and the various instruments, and then moving your body in a way that both fits what’s happening in the music and what your partner is doing. When I dance WCS, I continuously find myself not thinking much about the dance itself; rather, I’m creating a character in my head as I move through the dance, but instead of writing it down, I’m acting it out through my movements. Not only have I gotten some really interesting ideas for stories from this kind of dancing (particularly from dances to Maroon 5’s “One More Night” and the Civil Wars’ acoustic rendition of “Billie Jean”), but it actually makes me more creative and better able to write. If I sit down and write after an enjoyable and inspiring dance, the words flow. My creativity is awakened, and I’m far more in tune with my characters, the story, and my own mind than I am if I try to write normally. Obviously, I can’t go out dancing every time I want to work on a story, and I don’t always have the time to sit down and write after a WCS event. But it helps my creativity in general, and those golden moments when circumstances align themselves just right spark my imagination like nothing else. Even dancing alone in my room with whatever funky music comes up on my Spotify playlist can help. You’re telling a story through your body movements, and you’re relaxing your brain enough to let the creativity flow. So here’s some advice from that wise philosopher, Lady Gaga: “Just dance, it’ll be okay.” It will. And you may find that something good and creative comes from it.