the dance circle of life

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I wake up with an extra spring in my step on Tuesdays because Tuesdays are “dance class days.” Not for my kids, but for me.  A few months ago, I began taking an adult hip hop class with my friend Theresa and a few other mom North County mom bloggers. It’s difficult to explain the joy that this class has brought to my life. It always puts me in a good mood, even on the days when the routine is incredibly hard and I leave feeling like a middle-aged white lady with no rhythm whatsoever. Those classes are rare, though. Typically I leave feeling like I’m ready for a music video shoot.

The class is my one hour a week that is not spent cleaning, or working, or parenting. It is my much needed me time.

It sparks my creativity and keeps me feeling young.

It challenges me, physically, and mentally.

It has helped me lose some weight and has helped me shake the depression (possible mid-life crisis) I suffered last year.

It puts me only one degree of separation away from Beyonce, Kelly Rowland and the great Chaka Kahn because my instructor, Darnay, dances for them.

It inspired a flashmob.

It takes me to the Edge of Glory, week after week.

Last week, just as I was about to walk out the door at the end of class, Darnay said some foreign yet very familiar words, “Circle up!” Last time I can recall circling up was in a volleyball huddle over twenty years ago.

Inquisitive, unsure glances were exchanged amongst the students, yet we all followed instructions and gathered into a circle in the middle of the dance floor. I was silently praying were not going to be doing a dance circle because my usual posse of friends were not in class that night so I was feeling a little more vulnerable than usual. But as soon as Darnay cranked the music, I realized that was exactly what we were going to do: we were going to take turns bustin’ a move in the center of the circle.

Picture Breakin’ the movie, where Ozone and Turbo did their thang in the middle of the other B Boys. That’s what it was. I was terrified and thrilled all in the same moment.

The awkward claps began as I found the beat. While we all cheered on the dancer who volunteered to go first, my mind raced with questions like, what in the hell am I going to do in the center? What are these young kids going to think of me? And why the hell didn’t I put on make-up and a cute outfit for class tonight?

Self-doubt began to overwhelm me until I made the conscious decision to accept my fate and enjoy it. When the spirit moved me, I jumped in the center and none of my questions or doubts mattered anymore. I have no idea what I did while I was there. What I do know is that it felt great to be there. It was a jolt of electricity; a little uncomfortable at first, but ultimately invigorating and exciting. Before I knew it, it was over and I was back with my peers clapping someone else on, and my time in the center was over.

Exhausted yet exhilarated, we clapped, hugged and high-fived as we left the classroom, all of us feeling a little more alive than when we started.

As I drove home, I replayed the dance circle in my mind and realized how indicative it was of the bigger challenges in life. I long for and simultaneously dread those types of situations. I pray for them, yet I’m terrified of them. I question my abilities and how I will be perceived, until I finally jump in and go for it. I am usually drawn to the center of everything, the room, attention, the action, but, it is also where I am most unsure of myself. The center of the dance circle is a scary place to be, yet I love it there. It’s where I feel most alive.

In retrospect, I realize that life is one big dance circle. It never really matters what I do when I’m there in the center, I probably won’t even remember anyway. What matters is that I jump in and do it.

I am grateful to Darnay and to Mary, the owner of the dance studio, for fueling my love for dance, keeping me on my toes, and giving me courage to dance in the center.


What in life intimidates you? How do you face the situations that terrify you? What is the equivalent of a dance circle in your life?



  1. 1
    Jamie says:

    Love this, Mary. I’m glad you jumped in the center and just enjoyed the moment. I think you’re right about the dance circle being a metaphor for the approach-avoidance conflict (sorry, psych major…) that we probably all have when confronted with the prospect of taking any kind of risk that puts us in the spotlight. But you’re right…sometimes you just gotta feel the beat and jump in the middle! (And I’m trying to up my Zumba intake to twice a week…dancing is soooo much better than Prozac!)

  2. 2
    Jen says:

    I think that this is beautiful and a perfect life lesson.

  3. 3
    The Sweetest says:

    This is such a great post- I’ll be you were gettin’ down in the circle! I actually had a little heart racing reading about it. I would have been super nervous to dance in the middle.

  4. 4
    Frelle says:

    so awesome. love this so much I shared it on fb :) Great moment to give us a peek into, and great relating it to everyone else too!

  5. 5
    Jennifer says:

    Awesome! I bet you rocked it out! Now I wish we had adult dance classes like that here.

  6. 6

    I love this post, and am impressed that you take a dance class!!

    In life, dancing intimidates me. I hear about those families who have impromptu dance parties in their living room, and am jealous. We are not a family of dancers, and I realize that my boys aren’t because my husband and I aren’t. So, I faced the situation by joining your flash mob, and not stopping when I missed a few beats during the real thing. I was terrified that someone caught me messing up on video, even after the 15th, 16th, 17th video came out!

    And my dance circle? I think it’s when I am working. Really working, not blogging :) I’m always second guessing myself when I’m doing speech therapy, but when it’s over, I can look back and feel proud that because I provided therapy a certain way, the student “got it.”


  7. 7

    Yeah Mary! An awesome moment of vulnerability and you lived through to tell about it! And I love the metaphor of dance since that is something we both share. Keep on dancin’ girl. Happy to be in the circle with ya. xoxo

    Go Mary! Get your groove on!
    Go Mary! Get your groove on!
    Get, get, get-it girl!

    SWAK and a bootie shake.

  8. 8

    Woot! I have a hard time imagining you not being awesome, but nice to know everyone gets nervous about stuff!

    I feel like I’m in my own little dance circle right now. Having decided it’s time for a change, we’ve put our house up for sale and I’m planning to quit my job so we can move to another city. I may or may not have a job before I go and that’s both exciting and terrifying. I could have waited until this whole thing was perfectly choreographed but I decided that wasn’t the dance I wanted to do right now. So yeah, exciting and terrifying.

  9. 9
    Sherri says:

    Oh Mary…how did I not see before that life is just one big dance circle? Crap, this explains a lot…

  10. 10

    […] over two years ago, when I was trying to pull myself out of a mid-life crisis, I started taking my hip hop dance class and simultaneously started training for a half-marathon. With my creativity juices flowing from the […]

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