Let’s Dance!

Let’s Dance!

Photo:  http://www.ephesustoursguide.com/must-see-places-in-turkey/whirling-dervish-monastery-shrine-of-rumi.html

‘The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it,  

move with it, and join the dance.’

–Alan Watts

I’ve been thinking about dance a lot lately.  I think my contemplation began when I stumbled across an old and iconic YouTube video of Joe Cocker and Jim Belushi dancing and singing together on Saturday Night Live.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a look or a second look.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Jim must have LOVED Joe!  The video also reminded me of Elaine’s dance moves on an episode of Seinfeld.  She was hilarious and I loved her sharp elbows and jerky kicks.  Elaine and Joe both showed us that dance is much more about joyful abandon than it is about grace and beauty.

The dictionary defines dance as  “to move one’s body rhythmically usually to music to engage in or perform a dance.”  Does dance have to be rhythmic?  Must music be present?  Is dance always a choreographed performance?  I’m not sure.  Can’t dance just be a synonym for the never-ending movement in life?  I sat at my big picture-window this morning and scanned the never-ending show outside.  The ripples in the morning tide moved in relentlessly as Manklin Creek welcomed the glistening sunrise.  Yes, the ripples were rhythmic and they were beautiful!  Two gulls circled lazily overhead, their movements a foreground to the changing shades of pink and yellow on the clouds above them.  Good Morning Sunshine!  (Isn’t that a song?) Nature supplies the dance and I supply the music!

Morning is high energy time for Chuck and Hunter, my two Welsh Terriers.  Chuck interrupted my morning reverie over and over as he 1) barked to be let out, 2) barked outside at the awakening squirrels, 3) barked at the neighbors getting into their vehicles, and 4) barked to be let in.  While all this was going on, Hunter was racing from one end of the living room to the other with both his and Chuck’s bully sticks in his mouth.  With a sigh of resignation, I got up from my seat at the window, let Chuck in and invited him into my lap.  This was Hunter’s signal to jump into the chair next to me, glaring at me as Chuck pawed at me to scratch his belly.  This morning routine was far from unique.  Perhaps choreographed?    It wasn’t long, however, before Chuck jumped down and started his usual “whirling dervish” dance.  After witnessing this performance at least 999 times over the last six years, I knew that he needed to be let out again.  And, if I didn’t react within 2 minutes, I’d be sorry by what inevitably followed.  Fortunately, on this morning, I got him out the door in time!  As Chuck’s audience, I reacted as anticipated perfectly!

Can dancing be mindful?  I believe it can.  I define mindfulness as being intentionally “present” without judgment.  Some years ago I took a training course in “Mindfulness Coaching” at a local university.  Each session included a time for us to dance.  Nothing choreographed – just a free time for us to express ourselves with movement.  Our facilitator played a variety of music to encourage our creativity and playfulness to flourish.  As someone who has spent far too much of my life being serious, this experience was liberating for me!  I felt as if a totally new part of me awakened.

Dr. Jamie Murich, a clinical counselor and expert in traumatic stress studies and spiritual issues, developed the “Dancing Mindfulness” program as an integrated interpretation of mindfulness in motion (www.dancingmindfulness.com).  Marich’s practice debuted at academic conferences for addiction professionals and is now often presented as part of wellness programs and mindfulness workshops.  Combining breathwork with spontaneous movement can lead to less stress and more joy in life.  I plan to facilitate a mindfulness workshop again this fall and this sounds like a really fun new experience. In preparation, I’m creating a “happiness” playlist on Alexa.   What do you think?  Any suggestions for the playlist?

Dance can be both mindful and spiritual.   Whirling dervishes, (Chuck notwithstanding) perform a dance called the sema. It is a religious dance performed to express emotion and achieve the wisdom and love of God. It originated in Turkey, in the Islamic sect of Sufism, which was founded by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi.  The dance is sometimes interpreted as everything spinning around the sun but most commonly is thought of as a re-enactment of death and resurrection. http://home.wlu.edu/~lubint/touchstone/2000/Dervish-Fischer.htm.

Lord of the Dance” is a hymn with words written by English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1963. He borrowed the tune from the American Shaker song “Simple Gifts“. The hymn is widely performed in English-speaking congregations and assemblies.

It follows the idea of a traditional English carol, “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” which tells the gospel story in the first person voice of Jesus of Nazareth with the device of portraying Jesus’ life and mission as a dance.  I hope you enjoy the lyrics below.


Lord of the Dance

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he

I danced for the scribe
And the pharisee,
But they would not dance
And they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
For James and John
They came with me
And the Dance went on.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he

I danced on the Sabbath
And I cured the lame;
The holy people
Said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped
And they hung me on high,
And they left me there
On a Cross to die.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he

I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black
It’s hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I’d gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he

They cut me down
And I leapt up high;
I am the life
That’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you
If you’ll live in me –
I am the Lord
Of the Dance, said he.

Songwriters: Ronan Hardiman

Lord of the Dance lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group


  1. Great subject! Dance for all (including your two dogs) will bring more happiness into lives? I agree, for I have always loved to dance. My family danced and taught me early on to take those dance steps. I still dance now and then in my kitchen. Watching the twirling dervishes as they bore ever to the right with their white skirts billowing out, I can well believe that they are achieving spiritual happiness. I liked doing these very movements, when I was a child, too–stopping only until I got dizzy. Children have a great deal of wisdom?


  2. Cindy – I loved this!!! I would suggest the song “Last (or Lets) Dance by Donna Summer. There is another “Dance” recording that I am trying to recall.


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