We Really Should Dance More

30 Nov We Really Should Dance More

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 30.11.20)


We really should dance more. Not necessarily in the one-two-cha-cha-cha way with neat choreography and spandex. I’m talking about that thing where you kick your shoes off, toss your hair back and spin with your arms outstretched, unfettered joy sparking from your fingertips.

Too much? Appreciate it’s not very Kiwi to whoop and holler when good things happen. Settle down, mate, no need to make a fuss. Except that there are some really terrific reasons for celebrating every win, big or small. And it doesn’t have to be dancing – you are also allowed cake or whatever your personal go-to is for revelling in a triumph or a job well done.

It has been fascinating over past weeks as the results of US and New Zealand elections have rolled in, and those who have expressed delight in them online and in real world conversations have been told to shush up a bit, think of the work ahead, not assume the path will be easy, and been immediately reminded of the flaws of various personalities and their policies.

British journalist Jonathan Freedland describes this as our tendency to “search for the defeat contained in the victory”. We warn each other about the next dire thing, remind ourselves that this success (whatever it is) is not the end of the story. There are – gird yourselves, sisters and brothers – more horrors awaiting us.

All of which is no doubt true but it feels… deflating. Is there a sadder sentence than, “Yes, but…”? Everyone needs a moment to breathe out. We might know, too, that people who celebrate each small win do something very useful – they build resilience to keep going. Talk to anyone who has faced a major challenge with their health, a job, a relationship or some kind of natural disaster and they will tell you that an essential ingredient to having enough puff to reach their big goal is about setting smaller goals along the way, and then doing some version of a little dance as you achieve each one.

This is why we have invented birthdays – one day a year for each of us where we invite everyone to say, Hoorah!, You made it through another year! Look at you, you beautiful thing (for you are beautiful on this, your special day) and we will celebrate your achievement of making it one more time around the sun!

Imagine how discouraging it would be if you blew out the candles and, instead of “Many happy returns!” everyone shouted, “Look out! Odds on, the next year is will be dreadful… If you even survive.” Bollocks to that. I don’t care if you’re 103 – you deserve the gift of the thought of another great year that ends in another fabulous party.

This is also why we invented anniversaries, particularly of the wedding variety. On an appointed day in our annual calendar we take a moment to remember why we got together in the first place, and take a moment to find those first feelings again, rekindling the flames of early passion. Settle down, mate. But, yes, park the kids up with grandparents and gaze into each other’s eyes for a bit, and stop thinking about next week and whose turn it is to put the bins out and flea the cat.

Similarly, Casual Friday at the office works best when it does not contain a trace of the coming Monday. Anyone who spends Friday drinks reminding co-workers of next week’s deadlines should be immediately reported to HR, or sent out to buy chips.

When your child is bursting with joy at mastering the scooter, don’t tell her this will mean nothing in terms of her ability to ride a bike. Give her a round of applause and let her feel how great it is to become adept at a thing, and she will find her own hunger for trying the next one.

Celebrating each win is also how we find each other. Every heaving, sweaty, crowded dancefloor has its beginnings in one or two brave souls who could not sit still any longer, tossing aside their reticence and snatching up their confidence on the off chance a few others might feel the same way and they won’t be left hanging for too long. When you tell people what delights you, you give them permission to share their joy, too. This is how we find our dance partners, and our tribe.

So let’s allow ourselves moments of unfettered glee – the dancing in the streets is not a distraction, it is the essential thing that grows our resilience to keep going with all the other less dancey stuff that happens next. Feel free to take yourself for a wild spin.