‘A beautiful surprise’: How rediscovering my love of dance changed my life

How rediscovering dance changed my life

Emma Lennon pictured on stage during a dance performance. Image credit: Chunky Move.

This past year, I fell back in love with someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time. That person was me, or at least the version of myself I thought I had left behind in my youth. I found her by returning to dancing after more than ten years away from my once-beloved hobby.

Dancing has always brought out a side of me that seemed at odds with my tendency to be shy, introverted, and embarrassed by attention. But when I’m in the dance studio, I can’t stop laughing and smiling while learning and performing choreography. I lose track of time, bond with classmates, and have to restrain myself from hugging people I have just met.

I returned to dance after the pandemic, desperate to find ways to feel good and alive again and also in the hopes of making new friends. It was a beautiful surprise to realise that age and maturity were an asset, not a hindrance to my dance abilities.

I’m stronger, physically and mentally, and the responsibilities of adulthood allow me to deeply appreciate the ability to dedicate time each week to feeling good and being playful.

I’ve begun challenging myself with performance courses and various casual classes. I’ve made a circle of friends who feel like family, and I have transformed into a more confident, joyful version of myself.

In celebration of rediscovering the power of my childhood passion, here are eight beautiful gifts returning to dance has given gave me:

How rediscovering dance changed my life

Emma Lennon rehearsing at a dance studio.

In celebration of rediscovering the power of my childhood passion, here are eight beautiful gifts returning to dance gave me this year.

1. Humility

If there was ever a perfect antidote to my all-or-nothing, perfectionist tendencies, it’s dance class. I make many mistakes and am never the best dancer in class.

As much as I love to work hard and do my best, I have also learned to laugh it off when I mess up and take it in my stride.

Being humble has improved my self-esteem and resilience and helped me take life less seriously.

2. Connection

Moving your body in a group of people you see regularly creates a sense of almost primal love and bonding.

Consistently attending class was also one of the first opportunities I’ve had in years to regularly see the same people and build genuine friendships. Working from home and spending a lot of time alone made making new friends difficult, but thanks to joining a dance community, I have never felt more supported and connected to a strong social support network.

3. Confidence

I grew up so shy that speaking to new people could make me faint with fear. This past year, I stood on stage and danced, improvised, acted, and lip-synced in front of a crowd and felt nothing but excitement and joy.

Putting myself in scary situations where I had to fake or perform confidence made me trust in my ability to do hard, scary, and new things. This confidence has carried over into other areas of my life and given me greater courage and self-trust.

4. Mindfulness

In my first few dance classes, I realised that my anxious brain had no time to overthink while struggling to keep up with the teacher and remember the choreography. I felt fully present and grounded in my body for perhaps the first time in my life.

The benefits of this mindfulness practice created a sense of calm and peace that I eventually learned to access outside of class when life got stressful or chaotic.

5. Happy hormones

Exercise endorphins have many benefits, from alleviating depression symptoms to improved cognition and memory, reducing stress, and promoting better skin health.

The more consistently I danced, the more I realised that attending class always left me feeling more energised, calm, and relaxed, no matter how stressed, grumpy, or tired I was beforehand.

How rediscovering dance changed my life

Emma Lennon pictured on stage during a dance performance. Image credit: Chunky Move.

6. Motivation

Motivation is temporary and unreliable. Having the goal of perfecting my dance routines for an upcoming performance gave me a reason to stay consistent for several weeks, which built momentum and a habit of attending class.

Eventually, this habit became integral to my lifestyle, keeping me accountable and consistent even on weeks I didn’t feel like going. Hobbies should be fun, but sometimes, a challenge or ambitious goal can do wonders in getting new positive routines to stick.

7. Play

Knowing I’ll never be the world’s greatest dancer, I always have the same intention before class: to have as much fun as possible.

Dancing brought home the importance of being silly and playful in a world that emphasises ‘serious’ endeavours and almost glorifies stress, busyness, and toxic productivity as signs of being ‘successful’ at adulting.

I can’t overstate how much of a relief it is to shake off my responsibilities, shake my booty, and pull silly faces for a few hours a week before returning to the grind.

8. Vicarious joy

I’m not exactly proud to admit that I spent much of my life feeling threatened by people who seemed more confident or capable than me. I was a victim of the comparison trap, and it constantly reinforced my belief that I was inferior to everyone else.

These days, I fully embrace the idea that I will never be the best, but I can work hard and be proud of doing my best. I feel so proud and excited when I see others performing well that I am almost obnoxious about how loudly and enthusiastically I cheer them on. 

The best part is that feeling vicarious joy and pride for my friends in a dance class has translated to other areas of my life. I feel happier for others, admire their strengths without diminishing my own, and celebrate our unique ways of moving in dance and life.

Dancing has been a beautiful reminder that each of us brings something unique to the world that is ours alone. I encourage you to invest the time and energy into finding a hobby that makes you lose track of time.

Dancing has helped me deepen my relationship with myself in a loving and supportive way and ignites a childlike joy that I never expected to feel again.

Emma Lennon

Emma Lennon

Emma Lennon is a passionate writer, editor and community development professional. With over ten years’ experience in the disability, health and advocacy sectors, Emma is dedicated to creating work that highlights important social issues.