Dancing: it's really never been my thing. I can swing my limbs around as much as I want, but I guess that doesn't really count. During those awkward middle and high school dances, I was a really big fan of fist pumping, jumping up and down and line dances (mainly because I didn't have to make up the moves). I also thoroughly enjoy "dancing" ALONE in my dorm room when my roommate isn't there to witness it. In any case, showing the public my "moves" just isn't something I like to do...ever.
Recently, I had the absolutely incredible opportunity to travel to South Africa for the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. There were about 75 of us state officers, all hailing from various parts of the United States. The fantastic part about traveling with these 74 people was that we all are weirdoes. Not kidding. It's great. You never get judged for how weird you truly are because everyone understands. It was a mutual thing. Anyway, these people were all amazing human beings, and I miss all of them like crazy.
While in South Africa, we traveled to many different farms to witness the varying agricultural practices, immersed ourselves in the culture and ultimately learned a lot. There was one day where we traveled to Soweto (Southwestern Township) to tour the community and its attractions. We first stopped to eat lunch at Chez Alina Restaurant. This restaurant is locally owned, and it boasts some pretty tasty food.
As our meal was winding down, we began to slowly make our way outside to play with some adorable little children. When everyone had made it outside, three street dancers stood in the middle of the street, and began performing for all of us. A couple of little dancers joined throughout the performance as well. Two drummers provided the beat, and suddenly, the energy increased. All of us bystanders stood cheering and clapping. I stood towards the front of the group tapping my foot along with the beat. One of the dancers broke away from his fellow dancing partners and began to walk in my general direction. Realizing what was about to happen, a million different thoughts raced through my mind.
“Oh my dear Lord. Avoid eye contact. Someone from this group is going to have to dance with him. Please pick anyone else but me. Oh no. He’s getting closer. Please not me, not me, not me, not me…”
The dancer then extended his hand, inviting me to join the performance. I grabbed his hand, and he led me to the stage (the street).
“I am going to have to dance in front of all of these people. These dancers are extremely talented, and all I know how to do is the Cupid Shuffle. Alright, you’re going to have to summon all of the confidence you can and do this.”
My adrenaline was pumping as I tried to mimic the dancers movements.
“Ok, this isn’t so bad. This is fun. No one is booing me. You can do this. Just watch what he’s doing. Keep moving.”
After a series of movements, the dancer squatted to the ground and invited me to try it out for myself. Not being quite ready yet, I asked if he could show me a few more moves. He agreed, and we began the process again.
“Dude. This is a blast. You should dance like this all of the time!”
He then squatted down for a second time, and I knew that I would be performing all by myself. I bowed my head, giving myself just another second to breathe and gather my confidence, and jumped up with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I tried to copy as many moves as my dancing partner had shown me, while also trying to do it halfway decently.
“Move your hands. Move your legs. Kick. Sit down when you're done.”
After finishing my little routine, I sat down on the ground, and looked at my partner. He had a toothy grin on his face, and that was all I needed. He shook my hand, and I retreated back to the group with the same toothy grin on my face. Another group member, Sydney from Ohio, had the chance to dance with them as well. I could tell by the look on her face that she loved it too.
After some “cool down” and “reflection” time, I realized one key lesson that I learned from this dancing experience. Even though I was terrified, I stepped, or rather danced out of my comfort zone. If I declined his outstretched hand, I would not have the memory from that day that I do. I felt confident and joyful in those brief moments. Those are the moments that I will cherish forever.