So You Think You Can’t Dance

by Ping Ho, MA, MPH – Founding Director, UCLArts and Healing

You’re thinking too much.

The words of my longtime jazz-modern dance teacher, Reggie Brown, popped into my head as I tried to figure out the steps in a random Zumba class at the gym for the first time ‒ at times with two left feet.

When I simply mirrored the moves without trying to figure out how to execute them or worrying about how they were going to look, I discovered that I was able to do them “right” and stay in sync. I felt as if I were learning in the manner of a young child again. Perhaps our facility in mastery of language and movement as children is related to lack of self-consciousness or judgment.

This principle was clearly demonstrated in the Academy-Award winning film, “The King’s Speech”, whereby King George VI discovers his ability to speak fluently when moving, making sounds, or listening to music. Thankfully, the ability to express who we are through movement and sound requires only what we possess from birth – a body and a voice.

Interestingly, I have observed that it is generally difficult to get people to move spontaneously. Next after that, it is a challenge to get people to sing. In these fundamental realms may lie our greatest areas of self-judgment.