Play, Dance, and Movement (An Everyday Story by Rachel Powers)

This past Sunday, Rachel Powers led an experiment in Zumba, dance and movement and then shared an Everyday Story at our evening Gathering. 

Listen in or read below!


What is your dance history and how did you get into Zumba?

First off, I must say I believe every child has a dancer in them. And certainly, when I was a kid I loved music and moving. As far as dance history, I think I took a class when I was around 5 years old. It was only for a few weeks, because we moved and then I don’t know why, but taking dance classes was never something that came up again. I do remember though that my siblings and I would lay down a big blanket in the living room and put on music and dance. The blanket was the “dance floor”. We’d dress up in costumes and make up dances, not choreography but just movement. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was fun, it was playing.

As I got older and more self conscious, I became a closet dancer. I would put music on in my room (keeping the volume really low) and dance around. In high school, it was a big deal for me to be allowed to go to the formal dances and for me, those are my favorite memories from that time. Of course, the dancing was all just step touch, step touch, but something in me felt alive when I was moving with the music.

Later in life I went through a decade of severe health issues that for several years kept me from being able to exercise. About five years into my health struggles, a friend asked if I’d like to take a belly dance class with her. I’d never taken a dance class and certainly never even thought of taking belly dance, but I thought maybe it would be fun. It was very slow and all about isolating certain muscles and learning to control them in slow and quick movements. I got really excited when I found that I could catch on pretty quickly. That class ended and my friend wanted to keep dancing. She had heard about a latin class at another studio and wanted me to come check it out with her. We ended up in a Zumba class. I was a bit overwhelmed with the steps and all my focus went to the instructor’s feet, and though I felt frustrated with my own feet, I found that I loved the music and the pursuit of perfecting the movement. Plus, it completely distracted me from my physical pain and got me moving. This is how I fell in love with dance and was first introduced to Zumba. I took classes for two years before decided to get my certification.

What are the challenges to teaching adults to move?

I think as adults we are self conscious and don’t typically pursue activities where we might look silly or feel like we don’t know what we are doing. Also, adults tend to have some stiffness, especially in the hips. You know, we walk straight, we run straight, most of our movements are in a straight forward motion. We don’t typically swivel our hips around or change direction quickly in normal daily activities. 

Particularly for women, I think we tend to not like drawing attention to our bodies if we are dealing with insecurity. And it’s not secret that every woman has physical insecurities. It can be challenging for us to be asked to move our bodies in ways that emphasize our shape. But I believe it can also be freeing and help move us in the direction of self acceptance.I’ve also noticed that when teaching adults, they tend to wear a serious expression, very few people are able to smile during class, they are so focussed on the steps. I encourage everyone that my hope for them is to number one...have fun and number sweat. The steps don’t matter so much, just keep moving to the music and have fun! As with anything, repetition will get you the steps, so keep at it!

What can adults learn from kids in all of this?

Adults can learn from kids....

to let go, to laugh at yourself and stop worrying about anyone else and to just have fun being you in your skin. No one else gets to be you, so enjoy it. Be present, enjoy the moment and give yourself permission to be goofy and look silly. Get out of your head and into your heart. Be brave, don’t be afraid to try new things and you might just emerge better for it and more confident.

How do you understand the connection points between movement, health, and wholeness?

Well, there are three components to our health: we have the emotional, the mental and the physical. They are all connected. 

When we participate in physical activity and get the blood flowing this raises endorphins in the body, which actually lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. This is beneficial on an emotional level, decreasing anxiety. 

On the mental side, It’s proven that dance can help your brain stay sharp, in fact it can help prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s, because, “Dancing integrates several brain functions at once — kinesthetic, rational, musical and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.” Taking a dance class will “challenge your mind. It will stimulate the connectivity of your brain by generating the need for new pathways.” - Richard Powers

But beyond the science, when your exercise is an activity that brings you joy in itself, you get an even greater benefit. I find joy in dancing and, though this might sound cheesy, I feel like God smiles when I dance. It brings Him joy. For me dance is not just exercise but a form of worship. When I dance I’m thanking God for the body He’s given me....for the freedom to be able to move my legs and arms and move around. 

This is the connection I find between movement and wholeness....