Just Dance

By Emmaly Wiederholt


Nike has made a fortune off of the slogan “Just Do It.”

Some things make so much sense to “just do.” Just do your taxes. Just go to work. Just pay your bills. Does this totalism extend to dance? What does it mean to just dance?

I sometimes feel like the only thing left to do in the world is to just dance. Other times dance feels like a coat that’s too hot to wear and that I don’t fit in well. And then there are all the shades in between “I can’t help but dance” and “this feels horrible.”

In the beginning, my dancing was wholly mine. My pursuit of dance grew out of the simple joy I experienced just twirling around the living room floor. It was my vessel moving through space the way I wanted to. I just did it. But of course it’s different now. If and when I work with a company or choreographer, my dancing becomes less mine, and I think it becomes necessary at some point to relinquish a part of the ownership. It’s how the game is played. I don’t blame any dancer for joining any company or working with any choreographer.

This is where “Just Do It” comes in.

Where is that line between dancing because one cannot help it and dancing because one must? For my part, I’d rather keep dance in that treasure trove of things I do simply for the sake of doing. I’d rather not force dance the way I’d rather not force a poem, or force drifting to sleep, or force having a good day. But sometimes you have to go through with your day regardless of whether or not it’s going well.

Whether a dancer is dancing because they feel compelled by the heart or feel compelled by expectation is a subtle difference, but I think it’s an important distinction. Dancers should know exactly what they feel, fickle though feelings may be. It’s an expressive art. And if I don’t feel like dancing right now, hey that’s something worth noting. I’m not advocating laziness or indulgence, although maybe from time to time I am. I’m advocating rigorous self-evaluation. What am I feeling right now? Is this a worthwhile way to fill up my time and space?

Sometimes, when I’m bursting with inspiration, the reason is as simple as: because it’s the only thing in the world left to do.

But I also understand that sometimes dance can quickly become an obligation and an expectation. The choreographer and other dancers have expectations. It’s not a bad thing; it’s important for getting anything done. But if dance falls into the “obligations and expectations” category too often, I begin to wonder why all these dancers are dancing around in the first place. It begins to look like they just do it like they just do their taxes.

My dad always says moderation in all things. Perhaps those who dance perfunctorily should resort to laziness until they’re beside themselves clamoring to move. And perhaps the much rarer dancer who follows their heart in all matters dance should go do their “taxes.”

But by that same token, taxes only happen once a year. If every day feels like tax day, that’s an indicator something’s wrong.

Most of the time, I just dance. And not because Nike told me to “Just Do It,” but because it’s the only thing in the world left to do.