It was an emergency. My son, then a sophomore in high school, approached me after a dance. “Mom,” he said, “when you dance, do you go back and forth, or side to side?” He demonstrated both, shifting stiffly from side to side, and yes, back and forth. Aghast, I gave him a quick lecture/demo on moving from his center and never bobbing his head.
“So I guess you didn’t dance,” I said. He shook his head. “Do any boys dance?” Head shake. “What do they do?”
“Stand around. Feel stupid.”
“Do you guys want to dance?” Shrug. “If you knew how, dances would be more fun, wouldn’t they?” Raised eyebrows, shrug. That’s yes, in 15-year-old-boy language.
Why don’t boys dance? I’m not talking about boys’ ballet programs. I’m not even talking about the ballroom dancing classes many schools or communities offer. I’m talking walking onto a gym floor and moving to music. And enjoying it.
The reason they don’t dance, I concluded, is because they don’t know how, or don’t think they do.
I sprang into action. Discussions with a school administrator ensued, but somehow my plan to provide these awkward, rhythm-challenged boys with dance lessons taught by a handsome, guitar-playing, motorcycle-riding professional dancer friend fell apart.
But I maintain my commitment to the cause, for several reasons.
First, informed by my own youthful experiences at dances, I wanted to make my son and his friends less inclined to reach for a six-pack to give them courage to dance—or to get them through an otherwise interminable evening standing around feeling stupid.
Second, most women would agree that life would be much improved if at 50-something we didn’t have to look around a dance floor and see that men are still trying to decide between back-and-forth and side-to-side.
Third, and perhaps most important, is that joyful, unselfconscious, pedal-to-the-metal dancing is the very best thing in the world. —Lisa Okuhn
I’m reading Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability by Faisal Hoque, included in the May/June 2014 “Page Turners” department. Although this book is about organizational leadership and management and how to innovate in an age of volatile change, Hoque asks readers to look at who they are as individuals and as leaders of organizations, to better serve their constituents. Essentially, he advocates incorporating the practice of mindfulness into leadership.
What do you need to know about yourself in order to be fully present as a good teacher and choreographer, a successful studio owner—to uphold your values? And once you are aware of your patterns of behavior, how do you support yourself emotionally so that you can do creative and innovative work?
Several years ago I took a workshop with the poet Sonia Sanchez. She shared a story about how she wouldn’t start a retreat workshop until everyone had made his or her bed. Some people thought she wasn’t serious, but she held to her word. Her classes didn’t start on time. She said she always knew who didn’t make their beds, because they came to workshop late and were disorganized and halfhearted—as messy as their beds.
At the time, I didn’t comprehend why she told us this, or what it meant. But now I understand that Sanchez wanted her students to practice what Hoque calls an “internal dexterity.” He says we need to get “familiar with the fastballs and curveballs of our conscious and unconscious habits,” to learn to end before we begin, to show up awake, prepared, ready to begin the work you want to bring into the world. —Arisa White
DSL associate editor Lisa Okuhn is a writer and a former dancer with Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians, ODC/Dance, and others. She founded arts-focused Okuhn Public Relations.
Arisa White has worked as an administrator with Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and Urban Bush Women and holds an MFA in creative writing.