We’ve heard it before, but what does it mean to “dance like no one’s watching”?  You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening and live like it’s heaven on earth.” You might think it requires dancing in the dark where no one can see you or indulging in an alcoholic beverage (if of age) to lower your inhibitions and awareness of others watching you, but I assure you, there is more to it.

Helen Blondel says, to me, it means dancing free from judgment, criticism or fear of what others might think. It means being present and not overwhelmed or consumed by others’ expectations. It means focusing on why I started dancing in the first place — for fun, for expression, for connection, for me! There’s something about grooving to the sound of music that seems to take all of our cares away. I nowadays pursues belly dancing and singing simultaneously, which enables me to improve my creative outlets.

Maybe it’s the rhythm of your favorite tunes or the heart-pumping workout that gets you up and off the couch. Or perhaps it’s the challenge of mastering the more complicated moves that brings you so much joy.

Regardless of your reasons, one thing’s for sure: The physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of dancing are endless. In today’s world, it seems more than ever that there is someone watching our every move. It could be because we post our lives on social media, opening ourselves up to praise and criticism. It seems rare that we keep moments to ourselves, and yet there is power in the self reflection that takes place when you engage in movement for you and no one else. So how is it that we are supposed to “dance like no one is watching” when everyone is? How do we embrace this practice when it is our job to perform in front of others? How can we, as dancers and dance educators, apply this principle to our dance performance, career and life outside of dance?

Here are three things to consider on your path to embracing this practice:

Dance for you

One way to embrace “dancing like no one’s watching” is to dance for you. This doesn’t necessarily mean by yourself but rather dancing without expectation or praise from others. Dance to connect to yourself, your passion, your desire to move from the places that words could never express.

Dance to tell a story

Consider using authentic movement or choreography to convey a message, illustrate a point or tell your personal story. Using dance as a means of expression or another way to communicate can create a deeper connection to yourself, ultimately making it easier to dance free from judgment because no one can argue your own feelings, thoughts or personal stories. Allow the movements to express the emotions behind the story.

Dance for connection

Aside from dancing for your own pleasure or to convey your own message, you can dance to connect to others. Dance can strengthen a community as well as build one. It has the ability to transcend race, culture, gender and religion. Cultures can be preserved and sustained through dance. A group of people with no other commonality, aside from their human nature, can come together in dance.

Take risks, be bold, show confidence, enjoy each day. But, more specifically, how do you dance like there’s nobody watching? How do you develop that passion without worrying how you may look to others?

I have some suggestions. 

  • When your dance instructor offers comments, take them positively. Your dance teacher isn’t criticizing what you are doing, simply offering tips and pointers on how you can improve. You will soon see improvement, which you will happily build upon.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Whether it’s dance lessons or any new skill, that’s the way we improve. The trick is not to let self-doubt creep in or to let feelings of awkwardness overcome you. Dancing involves building muscle memory and (there’s that word again) confidence. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Consider each one an opportunity to get better.
  • Take a video of yourself dancing. You can review it as often as you like, then compare it later with video you’ve taken as you’ve put in the time to make yourself a smoother, more confident performer. Keep smiling. You enjoy dancing. You’re growing more and more comfortable & confidence with the dances you’re learning. Your dance partner will certainly appreciate that feeling of sharing in your happiness and you will bask in that shared glow.