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The Dance We Are Always In

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Sheeja Shaju was also the columnist for Dance Movement Therapy Journal of India and this article was originally published there.

Sitting at the stands, I watch my 8 year old son deftly manoeuvre his go-kart on the tracks at a racing competition. I see his eyes focused on the tracks, his opponent comes around the corners, he accelerates and further speeds off. On another turn his opponent tries yet again, and this time my son decides he has to press his brakes to avoid a collision and allows his opponent to overtake him. As I witness this, I become very aware, all over again, of this dance we are always in.

“Awareness is half the race won! Because, just being aware puts us in a position of choice and this choice gives us the power to design our next moment the way we want.”

When I am asked to tell my relation with dance, the one sentence I say is ‘I have not learnt professional dance, but I have been dancing all my life’. We all are always in a dance. A dance at home, a dance with family, a dance at work, a dance with deadlines, a dance with colleagues, and most importantly a dance with ourselves, a dance all the time! We are just not present to it.

What is dance then? The Oxford dictionary says ‘Dance is to move rhythmically to music’. While, in the traditional common sense this definition may be correct, I find this limiting. To me, dance is not only physical movement and music, not necessarily only melodious sounds emanating from an instrument, but, dance is also to blend; blend with oneself and the other, blend in physical moves to music or blend in conversations.’

Let me elaborate here. Ever notice, in a brainstorming session how ideas are thrown and caught and built upon. There is high energy, there is a rhythm, there is fun and yet there are results that matter. This is nothing but a dance between two or many, it is a harmonious blend of ideas and thoughts. This blend does not need any music, this blend does not need any physical movement. Here, based on one’s moves, the other reacts and responds and the same energy infects all who care.

There is a dance going one – all the time. The question is not whether the dance is on or not. The question is, do you have the eyes to see the dance, and the skill to blend in and join the dance.

During his race, when my son accelerates, my claim is that he is in a dance with his opponent, in every move they blend with each other. When he decides to press his brakes to avoid a crash, he blends in with his contender’s moves and dances to his tunes. There is an unspoken harmony and a subtle dance that takes place in the midst of this adrenaline rush!

While driving, you are in a dance with all other drivers around. Notice, when you inch your car slowly but surely towards the opposite side of the road, other drivers either speed up or slow down to make way. This is their way of responding to your dance moves. This is their way of blending in with you and your moves and this dance does not require music!

You are in a dance with yourself in every conversation you have with yourself. If you are committed to your result, chances are that the conversations you are having with yourself, are the ones that propel you into action towards achieving them.

This dance is omnipresent! Whether you want it or not, the way I see it, you are always in a dance. The beauty of this dance is that when you are present to it, you can choreograph it as per your wish!

The Power of Awareness

Awareness is half the race won! Because, just being aware puts us in a position of choice and this choice gives us the power to design our next moment the way we want.

Awareness -> Choice ->Power

Being present to the dance is the key here, because the moment you realize your dance is not synchronous, you have the choice to make changes. It requires practice to be present. It requires a keen observer of the self to train oneself to be present. One of the ways to train yourself is to constantly, as a practice, reflect upon situations or events or conversations in the day that leave you powerless and unsatisfied and even those that leave you thrilled and happy.

As you observe yourself in these situations you will realize the synchronicity of your dance during each event; whether you were in rhythm or not!

Slowly you will start to get present to the dance as it happens, and that’s when you will be able to steer the dance in the direction you want; you will be able to blend in with the others and achieve the results you desire!

Garnet, the Associate Vice President in a multi-national and my coachee, was dealing with a particularly difficult time with one of his subordinates. In one of our coaching sessions Garnet said ‘Every time I have a meeting with this particular subordinate, it ends up with me dismissing her, and her faults just keep popping out loud for me all the time. I see she is a committed employee and I am not too sure I want to lose her, but if this continues I may have to ask her to leave.’ He went on to describe the exact dialogues exchanged between him and his subordinate, that always ended up with a disgruntled him and a disappointed junior.

After we worked around this, Garnet realized his dance with his subordinate was totally asynchronous. He decided to take charge and bring harmony into this. In his next meeting, he was present to the dance in the conversations he was having with himself and his subordinate. He took charge. He caught himself slipping into his usual ways of getting angry and reacting, and stopped and reminded himself of his commitment to remain connected and to understand the subordinate’s views. He found himself blending in with his subordinate in the conversations, he felt more open to know what the subordinate was dealing with, and for the first time after many months, this meeting ended amicably. Garnet particularly, was happy with his dance.

When you get present to the current moment you are in, you begin to see more clearly. You begin to see the dance you are having. You then have a choice as to how this dance can progress and where it heads. The power is with you to decide how your next moment should be.

So, sit back at the end of the day and reflect – Are you happy with your dance today?

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