Practicing Resilience: Life Lessons from Dancing

The multifaceted, community event I have been helping to organize for the past 3 and 1/2 months was beginning to unravel the other day.  The day before the event :).

As a series of phone calls, emails and conversations in person left some well-laid plans in tatters, I was reminded that all of the planning in the world can’t forestall things that were happening, like people getting sick or having emergencies; people being uncomfortable with change; competing events happening at the same time.  And a whole host of other challenges that hadn’t.  Not yet.

On the way to dance class, I felt the knot in my stomach grow as I reviewed what we could do to compensate.  A mental image suddenly flashed of an athlete or a dancer gracefully bobbing and weaving.  That picture seemed perfectly apt and made me feel more capable of dealing with the challenges.

I realized that the wholly familiar image of a person shifting both swiftly and agilely reflected the practice we dancers engage in all of the time.  Sure, there is the fundamental practice of moving, of shifting the body and its parts in a comprehensive way.

But more important, there is the ongoing practice of adapting to the ever-changing variables of the music, the environment and the physical, mental and emotional status like injury, fatigue, illness, emotional issues.  When we dance we are in a state of constant improvisation, which is, of course, a mirror of everyone’s life all the time.  We just have the crazy illusion of control.


In my experience, the most vital dancers–and people–are the ones who craft a response to situations with whatever ingredients they have.  They recover from setbacks quickly, embodying resilience and pushing the limits of what’s possible.  They practice recovering, becoming better and better at it.

Got an injured knee?  Okay, how can you work around, and with, that?  Falling behind the tempo? How can you make up for lost time?  The list goes on and on.

Same for living.

As in, got a community event for anywhere between 20 and 200 people with many moving parts that is unravelling from the original plan?  Okay, how can you make it work?  My dance practice showed me how….


Bottom photo courtesy of Nikki Carrara © 2017; Sculptures, middle and bottom: Gil Boro, Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds

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