How Dance Teaches Us to Live Happier Lives

By Ian Crewe


If life is a dance, then we are all followers. And we are ALL guilty of back-leading. We tend to approach dance like we approach life; as something we can control, if we can get strong enough, smart enough, talented enough. Life however, tends to have other plans, by way of the accidents, layoffs, and various other misfortunes it throws our way. WE are the ones who, like the responsive follower, must react and respond with grace and sensitivity, in order to keep the dance enjoyable.

I’m not telling you it’s pointless to improve yourself. But when we treat the events in our life as something we can control, we also assume responsibility for everything that goes wrong as well. We don’t account for the unpredictability of life, and blame ourselves for things we have no control over. Your ability to shrug off these ‘missteps’ is far more important than whether they happen at all. Here’s just a few examples of how a positive approach to dance can be expanded to every area of our lives.

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Focus on your end of the partnership

When we hit on hard times, it’s easy and tempting to blame external events – our boss, our finances, our insensitive relatives. There may be some truth in this, but putting our focus here prevents us from learning and growing from the experience, so we can respond better in the future. Likewise, we may not have control over our dance partner, so we might as well focus on the one thing we do have influence over – ourselves. No matter what comes, ask yourself: What actions can I take to stay in integrity with myself?

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Accept the unpredictability of the dance

As they say, sh*t happens. Crushed toes and egos, trips to the floor and trips to the hospital, are all part of the dance of life. Trying to save yourself and those around you from life’s curveballs is not only doomed to failure. It prevents you from learning an important lesson about life and dancing both: That the events in our life, although sometimes painful, have no more power then we give them. The happiest people in the world didn’t escape misfortune, but learned to accept what came.

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The most important step is the one you are doing RIGHT NOW

As a people we tend to over-think everything, constantly planning and preparing for every eventuality. The irony (and proof that life has a sense of humour) is that all our thinking often make success even harder to reach, because it distracts us from what we are doing right now. If we live our lives this way, what do we have? A life of distraction.

One thing I constantly remind my dance students is to let go of past mistakes as quickly as possible, and likewise avoid predicting future steps from their leader. Both thinking patterns rob us of the presence and sensitivity we need to respond in the moment. Is a bit of planning and review necessary? Certainly. But once you’ve done your due diligence, learn to STOP. Ask yourself, ‘what, at this very moment, does this situation need?’ Then act on that feeling!