One weekend, while visiting a girlfriend who was my inspiration to learn salsa, I read her young daughter's book called “Giraffes Can’t Dance”.
It’s about Gerald the giraffe, who’s awkward and clumsy when he tries to dance. He goes to a party with his animal pals and while the lions can tango and the warthogs can waltz, he embarrasses himself with his graceless moves.
He’s convinced he can’t dance and he runs away while the other animals laugh at him. (Very mean animals!)
It reminded me of people I’ve talked to who have told me, “I can’t dance.” That always breaks my heart just a little bit.
Not because I think everyone should be as in love with dancing as I am, but because, more often than not, I quickly learn that they CHOOSE not to dance because they don’t THINK they can.
They’ve come to accept a belief about arts and creativity that is very harmful, which is: “You’re not good at this. Therefore, you shouldn’t do this.”
It’s not true. Because the truth is something closer to, “I choose not to dance because I feel insecure about my skill level.” But instead we say, “I can’t.”
Now, if dancing is not something you enjoy, and you don’t want to do it, that’s cool. But if you don’t dance because you’re convinced there is some skill or talent level you have to reach before you’re allowed to do it, then I’m here to tell you – No.
And, you’re not getting off the hook that easy.
There are many different ways to explore life as a dancer. Your journey may be to find the confidence to just enjoy dance. To dance at weddings, on the street, or in your living room and not care what anyone thinks – to just have FUN moving your body to music, technique be damned.
But, if you allow yourself, you might also find that you're fascinated by certain styles and you want to learn the specific techniques that express the language of that dance. You may come upon a dance style that grabs a hold of your heart and inspires and transforms you. And then you can study with different teachers, experiment with new moves and try performing. You may turn into a dancer that other people look at and think, “Wow! She’s amazing!”
Either way, you’re a dancer.
So, back to our sweet, sad giraffe who wants to dance but “can’t”.
He runs off from the party and happens upon a cricket, who wisely advises him to concentrate on the beauty of the moon and the gentle night breezes. Gerald breathes and sways while the cricket plays his violin and before he knows it – he’s dancing!
The other animals take notice of this “miracle” and are captivated by Gerald’s boogy-licious leaping, flipping and turning.
And then Gerald speaks the truth:
“Then he raised his head and looked up
at the moon and stars above.
‘We all can dance,’ he said.
‘When we find music that we love."
Giraffes can dance. And so can you. Find the music that you love, dance your heart out, and don’t let “I can’t” stand in your way.
* An earlier version of this blog post originally appeared on Follow-My-Lead.com on March 17, 2015.