Sidenote: I’m glad people are finding this article useful. But, if you are reposting or resharing, please link and credit the original article.
We love to joke about being ‘dance addicts’.
We’re even proud of it. We glorify flying to other continents to pursue our hobby. We see world-famous dancers with 2 or 3 full Facebook accounts full of fabulous people. We laugh about spending more time on dance-related activities than our day jobs.
I’m one of them – and I’m happy to be. It has given me an international network of great friends. It has challenged me physically and mentally. It has given me a sense of purpose and discipline. I honestly can’t imagine my life without dance as a major focus.
But, this wonderful addiction has a dark side.
Social dance is a very social activity. But, there are dance addicts out there who are incredibly, profoundly lonely – especially in large scenes.
Social dancing is somewhat like living in a city. You may be surrounded by people – but that doesn’t mean you know them. You can touch, interact with, and talk to people around you without actually engaging in a relationship.
Some of the most die-hard dancers substitute dance for interpersonal connection. Sometimes it’s because they feel awkward in social contexts. The touch and physicality of social dance doubles as a substitute for potentially awkward conversations. Developing dance skills becomes a form of ‘social credibility’, with dance desirability replacing real friendship.
Even worse, many new dance addicts end up losing touch with old friends as they become more ‘serious’ about dance. In addition to not developing strong connections with their fellow dancers, they let their old friendships deteriorate.
Eventually, the dance addict realizes they don’t really know anyone – even if they’re one of the most sought-after dancers in the room. That can be an incredibly lonely realization.
When you venture into the social dance world, build friendships. You don’t have to be friends with everyone (no one is, even if they seem like it). Even having 2-3 actual friends can alleviate the isolation.
No matter how addicted you are to dance, make sure that you still have people you can hang out with or talk to. It’s incredibly important to nurture friendships that exist outside the dance hall.
Dance is exhilarating and engaging. It’s very easy to run away from responsibilities in order to dance.
The dance floor can become our escape from reality. While this is great in some situations, it’s deadly in others. It’s great to be able to escape from a tough situation for some fun – but only if you’re able to return to the problem re-charged and ready to deal with it.
But, when there’s dancing every night of the week, it becomes easy to run to dance rather than tackle your problems.
Whether it’s financial, interpersonal, professional or other problems, don’t let dance stand in the way of managing your life. Dance is only a magical, wonderful thing if it doesn’t cause your life to go up in flames.
Think of it like alcohol: it’s great if you drink socially for fun once in a while. If you use it every night to forget about your tough day, it’s hurting your ability to cope with reality. When it’s alcohol, we call it alcoholism. We just don’t have a word for it when it’s dance-related.
This issue isn’t specific to dance. It applies to any super-involved hobby. Hobbies and activities are supposed to add value to our lives – not cause our lives to fall apart. Dance shouldn’t ruin a fantastic relationship, job, or other opportunity.
A Note on Finances
Dance should never bankrupt you. It sucks to miss out on some opportunities that you can’t afford, but it’s necessary. I may love Ferrari’s, but I don’t go buy one if I can’t afford it. Similarly, I love private classes. But, if I can’t afford it, I don’t take one.
In most cases, you can find teachers and events that are willing to work with you. Some need volunteers. Others have scholarships available. Or, you may be able to find a practice partner.
Regardless, you need to be able to afford your dance habit. If you can’t, you need to cut back or find a more affordable avenue.
As wonderful as dance is, it’s either a hobby or profession. It can’t be a substitute for other parts of our lives. Dance is simply not everything.
It can’t be. Dance is not human. As therapeutic and social as dance is, it can’t fill in for interpersonal relationships on its own. It can’t make your health and financial security woes disappear. It can’t come to rescue you when your car breaks down at 4 a.m. on a highway and you have no way home (though the people you meet through dance might).
I wouldn’t trade my dance ‘addiction’ for the world. It’s one of my driving passions, and I’ve accomplished so much since I began dancing.
But, I keep my eyes open now. I’ve used dance as an escape before. I’ve also found myself incredibly lonely at times. I’ve seen both the hurt and the healing that dancing can provide. When I use it responsibly, it is one of my greatest tools for happiness and growth.
Being aware of the dark side doesn’t negate the good that dance ‘addiction’ does. It simply makes you more aware of how to use it for your benefit – rather than be controlled by its darker side.
Update: I wasn’t expecting such a huge response to this article, at all. There’s a few common themes that have come up in comments and messages I’ve gotten about this article. I’ve addressed them in a follow-up.
I love dance tremendously, and nothing I wrote here means I love it any less. I simply want people to get the best out of dance, instead of the worst.