I attended a performing arts school for middle and high school and majored in orchestra. Because of that, I was known as “The Cellist” in my community. While I did love orchestra, I got very sick of that label after graduation. So, as I went to college, I decided to re-brand myself. I could be anything I wanted! So, I decided that I would become “The Dancer”. At first, the brand didn’t stick. But now, after a year in college, I have finally become “The Dancer”.

Now let me clarify: I am a social dancer. I do not take formal lessons or do formal performances. Social dances are casual drop-ins. You come when you like, you dance when you like, and you dance your style. My preferred styles of dance are contra dancing and swing dancing, but I also have just learned the waltz and blues. There are “regulars” at every dance event, but there are always new people too. For those curious about dance, I would just like to share a few things I have learned about myself in the past two years of dancing.

It’s Okay to Say No. You have every right to say no in a situation. If you don’t feel comfortable with someone, it’s okay to not dance with them. If you don’t like their conversation, you don’t have to talk to them. If you don’t like how they dance near you, you can walk away. Some people are very persistent, but you can take a stand and say no (with no excuse).

Live in the Moment. I have a Type A personality. I am always on the go and planning my next move and wondering what will happen in the next moment. Living that way brings me anxiety and stress sometimes. But dance forces me to be in the moment. You have to pay attention to every step and every turn and how beautiful your partner’s eyes are and how many buttons are one their shirt and…all you’re doing is just being there. You don’t have anywhere else to be and you are having a good time. So stay in the moment for now and just let it be.

Things Take Time. I have lost the patience to learn new things. They say that happens when you get older. When I first began dancing, I was so incredibly frustrated that I wasn’t a good dancer right off the bat. But that’s not how things work. Skill takes time and practice. The first kind of dance I learned was contra and it took me a solid three months just to get the basic steps down. Now here I am two years later, mastering those steps and learning new styles of dance. It really was a struggle remembering patience. But taking the time to learn the steps and practice was all worth the effort in the end.

Body Confidence. Being a first-year college student, the freshman 15 has been creeping up on me. I try to go to the gym when I can and I dance every week. Yet, somehow, I am still gaining weight. But you know what? The numbers on the scale do not matter. Yeah, I am a little heavier than I want to be, but I am capable of so much more than I was in high school. My strengthened core brings me balance and I am now less clumsy. I have endurance and can dance for a lot longer than I could before. I have muscle memory that allows me to be graceful on the dance floor. These skills are worth way more than the numbers on the scale. I look and feel fabulous and nothing or no one is going to tell me otherwise.

Attire. You can wear whatever you want and get away with it.

Being a Flirt. One of my favorite dance slogans is, “I dance, I sweat, I flirt, I leave”. And that is exactly right. Social dancing allows you to interact with so many types of people in a unique setting. Dancing has a certain intimacy: you can get very up close and personal when you dance and you can be flirty if you want. But then you can leave. You don't have to carry on, you don't have to go home with anyone, and you don't have to give out your number (unless you want to). Now obviously there are some rules like don’t lead people on, don’t be vulgar, don’t be excessive or rude. And, as mentioned earlier, if you are uncomfortable, you can change partners or decide to leave. But it’s fun to be flirty with those who flirt back. It’s non-committal and silly.

Community. Oh my gosh, the community is awesome! While I have gone out of town for a few dances (shout out to Lake Murray!), I dance mostly in Charleston. It has been absolutely amazing getting to know the regulars here. Some people from contra dance also swing dance too, so it’s great getting to dance with them in new settings. You build strong relationships and trust with these people. And what a great community it is.