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Dancing with Change

What if you approached change as you would a potential lover? You know, flirted with it a bit? How might that be a different experience for you?

I’ve been thinking about various approaches to change because, well, that’s what I do. But this “flirting with change” perspective hadn’t occurred to me until I saw this picture about this event. The woman pictured is Jamileh and she was one of the featured dancers at the Multicultural Dance Festival in Biddeford sponsored by University of New England. Women who have attended my Homecoming retreats in year’s past might know her better as Jeanne Handy, one of my retreat team leaders. Jeanne was born into a family that told stories through dancing – specifically, women’s  dances: “It is a celebration of living sensually – really being in your body no matter where you are in life. And you can’t age out of it. There really is something to honor at every stage of life.”

When I first met Jeanne, she came to my home to celebrate my rite of passage into motherhood by teaching a very-pregnant me and two of my friends the basics of belly dancing. At the time Jeanne was a new mom herself, having just given birth to her first child two weeks prior. I was struck by how comfortable she looked in her own skin, and how that grace must have been a fabulous companion to have on board during the whole pregnancy and birthing bit.

It wasn’t until I took a class with Jeanne that I came to appreciate what belly dancing was truly about. It is about telling a story – your story – with your body. I listened in wonder,as Jeanne told tales of her own childhood, when a night of dancing would build up to the final crescendo, and the eldest woman would come out to dance. Her story was the richest, according to Jeanne, and the crowd responded accordingly.  You  can’t “age out of it”, indeed – apparently your ability to tell a story just gets better with age.

So how does all this relate to change? Perhaps it doesn’t, but I’m sure as hell gonna try to make it. Because I want to live a life of dancing with change.

If you really think about it, all stories are about change. A change of circumstances, a change of perspective, a rite of passage or a new chapter. I held an event back in September that featured the stories of five women and as each one of them took to the stage to share their story, sure enough, they were all about navigating change in their lives. Over the course of the night, the audience (filled with men and women) seemed to experience a whole range of emotions – laughing, crying, yelling out loud, being deep in thought, and being totally present. It was like seeing Jeanne’s dance, only hearing it in words.

And aren’t our bodies deeply connected to every change we make? Indeed, if we are talking about “navigating” change, doesn’t that make our bodies the vessels which we ride it out? So it’s not a huge leap in logic to consider that one of the best ways to relate to change is to move with it – literally and figuratively; sometimes letting it make the moves on you and sometimes having you take the lead. Like flirting.

What if navigating change would be like moving to music? And Change were your really sexy dance partner? How might you approach it then? Would your eyes meet across a crowded room? Could you feel the magnetic pull of two forces drawn to each other? Would you resist it then?

Now envision the tempo of the music picking up. You’re aware that the moves that had been working for you moments before now feel somehow off and awkward. Closing your eyes, you let the music guide you, move through you, until you once again find your rhythm and you open your eyes. You find you are face to face with Change as your partner. And you kind of like how it’s checking you out. Rather than going back inward, you make eye contact with Change and marvel at how your body is moving effortlessly in sync with this partner who is essentially a stranger. You are dancing together with the music holding you as one.

Feeling playful, you switch up your dance, curious to see how your partner responds. Change does respond, but you are unsure if it is because of you or its own moves. Who is leading and who is following in this dance? And then it occurs to you: you both are. Like the partners you are, you assume the lead or you take the other’s lead in turn. It’s almost seamlessly, thrillingly so.

There is no angst here, no struggle for control. There is only music and movement. And power. A perfect dance between will and surrender.

Dancing. Flirting, Moving my hips. The potential of knock-your-socks-off intimacy. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to approaching change, that’s a hell of a lot more appealing than making lists, strategizing, agonizing and bracing.

Bring on the music. I may not be JLo, but I’ve surely got some moves to make that will get this party started. And according to Jeanne, they’re only going to get better.

6 comments to " Dancing with Change "

  • Katie West

    Love this Lael!

    I have often asked clients (who have later admitted that they thought I had gone looney) to Dance it out. Recently, I heard myself saying to someone, “GO ahead, DANCE the dark spring within you”….to someone who felt a lot of lifelong melancholy. It was like giving permission to bathe or swim in the elegance of the story and not just the sludge. As an avid dancer, I think you have hit on this point beautifully of dancing as a metaphor. We cannot control the music. Sometimes we cannot even choose the selection, but we can choose to move our body and let the notes roll into and out of us. Mwah…love it!

    • Ooooo. I love the charge of “Dancing It Out” and SO am going to put that one in my back pocket! And well said on not being about to control the music. Therein lies the rub a lot for me…feeling like some hip hop, but hearing muzak. Great comment, Katie – glad you liked it and thanks for driving (or dancing!) it home.

  • Wow, I never cease to be amazed at how things come into your life just as you need them. Most times you aren’t even aware you are searching for answers; you just know when they appear.

    This post was an eye-opener today as I laid down to rest. Had I not laid down, I would have missed this wonderful message.

    Thank you, Lael, for being my answer today.

  • Shannon Nichols


    Your imagery is powerful. Shifting from facing change with anxiety, to flirting with it… being with it…creating and responding to change…. What a concept! Thanks!

    • Thanks, Shannon! I’m thinking Bubba’s would be the perfect place to play with this one! That light up dance floor is just too much to resist. And if you’re going to give it a try, go big or go home, right? I’m thinking big hair, spangled belts and spandex would complete the ensemble 🙂