Like Your Life Depends On It: Life Lessons from Dancing

The gifted, generous choreographer and dancer Robert Battle was spurring us to dig deeper in performing the movement phrase he had just taught us. Although I took his classes years ago, I can still feel the thrill of hearing him urge that “when you dance, you should move as if your life depends on it!”

The drama and sweep of that statement have galvanized me on more than a few occasions. But I confess that it took awhile for me to appreciate just how far-reaching the ramifications are for Mr. Battle’s fabulous advice.

Photo: Essennelle Studios

Photo: Essennelle Studios

I was reminded of this again yesterday as I was buying a book about dance at a lovely independent bookstore. When the young woman who had been helping me was ringing up the sale, she paused, and suddenly asked if I am a dancer? Yes! What kind of dance? Contemporary or modern.

Her face and energy immediately lit up as she shared that this is the kind of dance she used to do. For 16 years.

She explained how much she misses dancing; her longing was palpable. She told me how it’s been a struggle to find a way back, how tough it is to find other dancers and opportunities, how much her body yearns to get back to it.

My response? “DO IT!”

I suggested a couple of contacts for classes and performing, which she eagerly wrote down. As I headed out the door, I called to her that I would return to prod her (only half-jokingly :).

Photo credit: Rich Davis

Photo credit: Rich Davis

Yet another tale of forsaken passion. I don’t know about you, but my path is strewn with them. Shoot, I have even lived the tale when I chose the “safer” path of law school and lawyering over the riskier, yet for me richer, life of the artist. So many people living an eerily similar, cautionary, and often heartbreaking, story. It makes me want to hug my passions more closely, live them more fiercely…and certainly more gratefully.

Which gets me back to Robert Battle’s wise and wonderful words. Of course, when we are engaged in our passion, whether it be writing or dance or running or cooking or whatever, we need to aspire, give it everything we’ve got.

But as you know the heavy lifting doesn’t stop there. If we are fortunate enough to discover what makes us come alive, we also need to advocate fiercely, even to ourselves, especially to ourselves, for passion’s essential place in our lives.

We need to clear the decks, shift our schedules, ignore the naysayers, jettison our excuses, align our commitments with what makes our lives meaningful. And DIVE IN. To nurture and grow that passion. Relentlessly.  Even if it means creating and cultivating opportunities to help our passions thrive.


Photo credit: Arthur Fink

Photo credit: Arthur Fink

So, of course: air, water, food, shelter. We all need these to survive. But to truly live our lives beyond a level of mere subsistence? To do that, we need to honor and foster our passion, inside and out and all around. Yessirree, we need to go after our passion as if our lives depend on it.

If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.”
― Charles Bukowski

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32 Responses to Like Your Life Depends On It: Life Lessons from Dancing

  1. All true. I believe it completely.

  2. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    Oh, my gosh. How this speaks to me now! Tomorrow I will be taking a step this direction–away from safety and toward the life I want–when I walk away from one job without the next in hand. I no longer want to stay safe for the sake of safety. I want to find the right short term fit while strategizing how to realize my long term dreams. I am taking that first step, spending greatly needed time with my sons, and relishing the prospect of proceeding with intentionality.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yahoooooooooo, Deborah!! So happy for you, even as I understand that there may be some anxiety involved with your courageous and totally wise decision. Spending greatly needed time with your beautiful treasures of sons and “…proceeding with intentionality….” on your way to “…realize your long term dreams….”? Sounds pretty freaking amazing: the hero’s journey. Can’t wait to witness the adventure, my friend! Thank you for sharing your inspiration, Deborah. Bon voyage, and love to you….

  3. ViewPacific says:

    I can relate to this so much. I’ve let one injury after the other sideline me from dancing, and I’m still unclear which pain is worse. Following passion isn’t the easy thing, it’s the only thing, and can be a painful thing either way.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Ah, Vincent. Your last sentence says it all, and eloquently. After taking class today with a gorgeous dancer who is close to my age, we talked about adjustments we make in certain movement to accommodate injuries and other limitations. A major reason why I adore her and her class is her seemingly boundless willingness and creativity to adapt that enable her to keep moving incredibly fully. For me, at this point, this is the way to go. But I totally agree with you–the pain can be there either way. Wishing you joy, no matter what route you take. Thank you for your presence. xo

  4. Miranda Stone says:

    What a great message, Chloe! This is why I returned to writing–because it truly is my passion, and though I don’t have plans to give up my day job in order to pursue it full time, I do make sure I create time in my life to write.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, Miranda! You are a terrific model for us in realizing the importance of your passion for writing and then ensuring the passion’s place in your life. Thank you so much for your inspiration and your support, my friend. xoxo

  5. ST, Great post, chock full of wise insight. I love the part about advocating fiercely for our passions…especially to ourselves. That’s definitely the biggest adversary for me. Your journey continues to inspire! Thank you for that. xoxo

    • SirenaTales says:

      Funny you should mention that internal adversary, Elysha. As I was writing that part about advocacy I suddenly realized that much of my time and energy is wrestling with none other than myself :)…no one else to blame-ha! Thank you so much for your enduring support and friendship. xoxo

  6. luggagelady says:

    Oh what a vividly compelling picture you paint with Bukowski’s words — if envisioning my existence as yet another dull book in the library of life isn’t enough of a kickstart, I don’t know what is!! Knowing what makes us come alive is an amazing gift, but only in honoring/cultivating those passions do we share our authentic selves with the universe. Brilliant — as always!! 😘

    • SirenaTales says:

      “…only in honoring/cultivating those passions do we share our authentic selves with the universe….” Perfectly said, LL. And I am so pleased you like the Bukowski quote. That one is going to be written on my bathroom walls this weekend…in BIG letters :). Thank you so much for your boundless inspiration and kindness! love to you….

  7. Beautiful! I am delving into passion myself. Perhaps delving will turn into a dive. Who knows? But your passion inspires me, for sure!

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, your delving is so inspiring, Emilie! Delve, dive, dig–all wonderful. I hope your adventure is going well. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and support, especially when you are so busy. xoxo

  8. maskednative says:

    Yet another hugely inspiring post ST, and some timely reminders for me. I am about to move house without the WOW factor, compromising again, decisions to make on all fronts, tough time. DIVE IN you said, I know I can swim, just wish I knew where the water is. You are an inspiration, thank you.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Ah, maskednative, ’tis always so lovely to hear from you. Thank you so much for your encouragement. Very sorry to hear that you are going through a tough time…am sending you positive vibes. However, I have no doubt that you will find your “water,” and perhaps already have at some level. You cannot create the gorgeous poetry and visual art that you do without having a deep understanding of the self’s “sea.” Xoxo

  9. Sue Vincent says:

    Amen to all of that!xx

  10. F.G.M. says:

    “when you dance, you should move as if your life depends on it!” quel incroyable conseil et vivrant appel à la PASSION pour ce que l’on fait, ce que l’on veut exercer comme art… j’aime ta réponse, et ta philosophie qui tient en deux mots essentiels: “do it”… oui, deux mots essentiels, car tant de gens n’osent pas… quel dommage! Il faut oser. Il faut même faire plus qu’oser. Yes, “to dare” is not enough. DO IT! Merci très chère Cholé, yes, THANK YOU for this uplifting post 🙂 Have a nice week-end 🙂 ♥♥

    • SirenaTales says:

      Dear Frederic, You make me smile with your fierce enthusiasm! Tes mots son des cadeaux rayonnants et vivants. Thank you so much–both for your beautiful and inspiring words of courage, and for living those words so fully. I hope you have been enjoying the sunny climes of Sicily, my friend. Love to you

  11. Rachael Charmley says:

    Thank you, Chloe for your passion and your aliveness. ❤

  12. Lorien says:

    Yes, thank you for encouraging us to follow our bliss! And for encouraging the woman in the bookstore too…who knows how your kindness will ripple out into the whole world by helping this woman remember what moves her soul, and encouraging her to go for it!

  13. seanmirza says:

    Great lesson indeed. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Thanks, Chloe! Good to be reminded. X

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