My son, aged 10, is completing a dance section in his Phys Ed. class at school. He is enjoying it very much and was quite excited to show us the dance he had created for the class dance competition.
He asked for music and started to bounce to the beat. He was grinning from ear to ear. As he showed us the pattern he had created, he started laughing and clapping. His joy was so apparent.
After dinner he and his sister put together a new dance. It was one of the few times recently where they laughed and helped each other. There was a lot of “no, no no! I meant…like this!” in happy tones. (Usually they are fighting over Legos and sneering at one another.)
As I washed up the dinner dishes, I thought about the point in life where boys lose their natural ability to dance, to move with joy to music. Some boys have dancing learned out of them rather early (I am thinking of parents who say things like, “man up” to their young boys).
I think most boys lose the natural joy of dance around 12.
(I could be wrong, we haven’t gotten that far yet.)
As I thought about it more, I realized how important it could be for boys to dance.
To keep dancing.
Boys – who turn into men – are given so few outlets for their physical bodies.
Basically two: sports and sex.
They can play sports and roughhouse to express physicality and receive physical pleasure.
And they can have sex for more intimate, sustained physical pleasure.
But that’s about it.
“What a damn shame,” I thought. Boys lose (or, have taken from them) another way to enjoy their bodies when they lose the interest in dance.
It shook me to my core to think about how sad this was. The pleasure of just enjoying their body is lost to them when we discourage boys from dancing. The pleasure of expression. The pleasure of release and expansiveness. The joy of feeling connected to one’s body through pleasure.
I was reminded of working in a place where most of the men (and a lot of the women) were very repressed. Some of the women kept quiet and/or used alcohol as an antidote to the closing of their hearts. Some of the men found release in addiction, extreme sports, and extra-marital affairs.
For months after I left, I imagined inviting these people to take dance lessons with me. To dance and laugh and release. They never would have gone for it, but I would have like to have tried.
Dancing is a spiritual practice for me. So I revere it and protect it for my own needs. But I also believe it is important for all people. I am reminded of how many tribes in faraway places include men-only dancing (sometimes as a courtship ritual) – and how important dance is to the health of their men and their community.
I am lucky in that my husband still dances. He went clubbing in college and never stopped dancing. Today we regularly embarrass the children (in our own home!) by dancing in the kitchen. Slow and soft or wild and crazy – we still dance.
It may be time to make this a family ritual. I do not want my boy to become embarrassed by dancing, especially his own.
I want this joy for him, for his whole life.
[After I wrote the notes for this post, I found this on The Unbounded Spirit. It is a much deeper article on the need for men to take back their bodies and emotions- dance is just one way. It is a long article but worth the time.]