Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Can Dance if You Want to

Is the rhetoric responsible for what happened in Tucson over the weekend? Probably not; we’ll never know. Should everyone stop flinging blame? Yes; it serves no purpose than diluting the argument. Should we reevaluate what we say and how we say it? Absolutely.

End of subject for me.

This is a tragedy that I cannot even comprehend and my blog sisters, Rhonda and Marilyn, have already done the topic justice with their impassioned posts from Monday and Tuesday. Rather than try to chime in with a plaintive cry for more civility, which I’m not sure we’re going to get despite the loss of six lives, I would rather take a stab at another topic entirely and one that might make us smile: dancing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to dance and will do it anywhere. That means you may find me dancing in the toiletry aisle at the local grocery store, where they play particularly danceable music, or at Target, or even waiting on line at the DMV. I can’t help myself. And believe me, my kids wish I could.

In Sunday’s NY Times Magazine section, Deborah Solomon interviewed the Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin. The questions centered around her role as Surgeon General and today’s focus on solving the problem of our increasingly obese population here in the United States. Surgeon General Benjamin is no skinny minny herself, and readily admits that (after it was pointed out by Ms. Solomon), but says that everyone should find an activity or exercise that makes them happy and gets them moving. For Benjamin, it’s disco dancing. She doesn’t go to the clubs to get her exercise on, so to speak, but finds that after several hours of dancing she feels invigorated and knows that she has gotten some good aerobic exercise. She recommended that if you could do nothing else, you should dance. I couldn’t agree more. My kids are now running and hiding.

While I was reading this article, I was listening to my Ipod, set to “shuffle.” I’ve got a ton of disco music on there, but the song that began playing as I turned the page was “Dance Away” by Roxy Music, which implores the listener to “dance away the heartache…dance away the tears.” That got me thinking: What are the benefits, if any, to dancing?

I did a little research and this is what I found.

1. Dancing increases flexibility. As we get older, we get less flexible; that’s a fact. But by dancing when you can, you increase the flexibility of your joints, the elasticity of your muscles, and your ability to move overall.

2. Dancing increases strength. According to, “Dancing builds strength by forcing the muscles to resist against a dancer's own body weight.” I think this applies to amateur, recreational dancers, like me, or professional dancers.

3. Dancing increases endurance. Because dance is a physical exercise, and exercise increases endurance, dance increase endurance. Any kind of dancing will do, but rest assured that as a result of your busting a move, you will increase your endurance.

4. Dancing gives you a sense of well being. Dancing is a social activity that usually—unless you’re me—takes place in the company of others. You may even dance with somebody, something I haven’t been able to achieve because I like to lead (but that’s a blog for another time). Being in the company of people who are having fun while exercising can help you build self esteem and give you a positive outlook. What can be better than that, really?

As I write this, I am seeing parallels between dancing and writing. Writers need to be flexible, something I’ve learned from years of revision of first drafts. You may be entirely committed to an idea, only to find that it doesn’t work, or so says your editor or writer’s group. The more you write, the stronger you become; just ask Stephen King who talks about developing “writing muscles” by writing every day. Writers need endurance; you’ve all felt this as you’ve approached a particularly tight and perhaps onerous deadline. But ultimately, writing gives you a sense of well being. Why? Because you’re able to express yourself creatively, just like a dancer, or a painter, or a singer.

The world is a scary place sometimes and this past week only serves to highlight that. Dance more; nobody is watching and nobody cares about seeing expressions of pure joy. Write like you’re the only one who’ll read your work. You can only control what you do and how well you do it, so as the old Mark Twain saying goes, “Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Sing like nobody's listening; live like it's heaven on earth."

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Wii dancing is pretty fun as an option. I'm aiming to get their Zumba game pretty soon so I can zumba, which I think is fun fun fun!

    Great inspirational post, Maggie.

  2. I've always loved the line, 'Dance as if no one is watching.'

  3. That last graph of your post needs to be printed out and stuck up on everyone's bulletin boards, Maggie! I dance around the house with my iPod on, and Ed and the cats think I'm crazy. But it just feels good. If only we could dance WHILE we're writing. Ay, there's the rub. ;-)

  4. I love to dance, too, Maggie! My family looks at me like I'm a bit nutty when I do it, but I'll take dancing to music over jogging on a treadmill any day ;).

    BTW, being an '80s girl, when I saw your title I thought, maybe it's a Men Without Hats/"Safety Dance" reference? Gotta read it!

  5. Thanks, everyone! Glad you got into the spirit of this post. And yes, Marilyn, the title was a reference to Men Without Hats. I didn't know if anyone would catch that! Maggie