7 min read
Dancing for thirty years has taught me much about flexibility. I’m not talking about how limber my joints are, but about how dancing has given me the skills and ability to adapt to whatever life situation befalls me. Let me explain.
Dance requires space, and lots of it. Unless a lucky dancer has been accepted into the Bolshoi ballet company, which offers ample rehearsal space, most facilities don’t have enough room for dancers to practice in. Most schools or churches allot space and money for football or choir. Dancers are relegated to whatever space is available to practice their art form. In the many years I’ve danced I’ve practiced in hallways, on patios, in locker rooms, and in front of my bedroom mirror.
Flexibility, in dance and life, remains key if one wishes to take part in something beautiful and harmonious.
Adaptation and flexibility are required when working in a limited space. One cannot exactly pirouette across the floor if the floor is the size of a closet hallway. Most dancers perform on large stages compared to the closet-size spaces they’ve been relegated to rehearsing in. The dancer adapts to this discrepancy by developing muscle memory. She uses the technique of envisioning the large floor, even though she’s working in a small space. When the choreography requires a huge leap in the air, she envisions it. If the dance calls for a waltz, she feels the 1-2-3- rhythm in her body and imagines herself gliding across the floor. By doing this repeatedly, she trains her body to make the correct movements at the right time.
But “stuff” can happen. Last-minute changes by a temperamental choreographer, another dancer’s bout with the flu, or a sprained ankle can quickly alter reality. One dancer’s absence can force everyone else in the group to completely alter what they’ve practiced. This sudden upheaval can be extremely scary and anxiety-producing. Imagine that you’ve been practicing the same steps for weeks, and then suddenly having to adapt to new floor spacing and arm positions. But dancers are resilient. They learn early on to adjust quickly to what’s necessary for the sake of the performance.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had to be resilient, too. We’ve had to adjust quickly to unforeseen events, just like dancers do. We’ve been stretched to the limit in our workplaces, schools, homes, and hospitals. We’ve learned to adapt by being flexible, forgiving, creative, and innovative. We’ve learned new ways to adapt to less-than-ideal situations in short amounts of time. And whether we’re in a pandemic or not, the beauty of this lesson is that it will last a lifetime. We can apply it in all aspects of our lives to learn to be flexible and adaptable in our marriages, with our children, and in our workplaces. Lessons in adaptation and flexibility also teach us to work with different personality types, schedules, and unforeseen events which may throw us off balance.
As creatures of habit, we tend to freak out when we’re faced with sudden change. Our old patterns, which have become automated, experience upheaval and we become resistant to change.
But change and adaptation are a necessary part of life. We become more resilient each time unforeseen events occur.
Remember when you were learning to drive a car? You consciously thought of everything before your driving skills became unconscious. “Right foot on gas”, “left foot on clutch”, “right turn signal”, “check rearview mirror.” Dancers begin with a similar mindset: “Left foot pointed, right arm extended, right pirouette on the count of three.” As our movements become ingrained in our bodies, it becomes more difficult to change our routines. Sudden change feels awkward and out of sync. Our default has had to readjust, and we’re called to rethink and reprogram ourselves to meet the problem at hand. Dancers are completely aware of this and learn how to adapt and be flexible to make the dance more beautiful. They learn to move together as one while adjusting to their space and the space of the dancers around them.
All of us have a similar routine or habit memory. We enjoy and are familiar with our personal space and routines.
My morning routine consists of sitting quietly on my back porch, sipping a cup of coffee, and watching the birds in my backyard. If I don’t start my morning this way, I can become easily agitated. Most of the mothers and fathers working from home during this pandemic are feeling out of sync and agitated too. They’ve been stretched to the limit by having to adjust to online schooling, the loss of a job, or working on the front lines.
We’ve had to learn to bend before we break. And those of us who have learned about flexibility fare better emotionally than those who have not.
In nature, trees exemplify these flexibility traits. They bend before they break. Have you ever marveled at trees dancing during a storm? It’s fascinating to watch them whirl furiously while their long branches arch gracefully to the ground.
They display a tremendous strength, grace, and flexibility. They adapt to their environment to survive. Just like dancers, their strength is demonstrated by their flexibility, grace, and adaptation.
This pandemic is not the first time we’ve had to adjust to abrupt change. Historically, we’ve endured: wars, plagues, droughts, famine, floods, oppression, and other catastrophic events. To survive, we, like dancers, have learned to live up to the challenges of our world and work together as one by adapting and implementing flexible, creative solutions to our problems to serve the greater good.
Our call to action during this historic time is to work together and choreograph a beautiful dance that exemplifies the best of the human spirit. To cultivate and nurture a spirit of love, unity, grace, adaptation, and flexibility.
By implementing a spirit of flexibility, we learn to get along with others, create harmony in our work environments, and teach our children to be flexible, adapt, and change as needed for the good of all.
by Cathy Lynn Gregory