How 31 Days of Dance Changed My Life & Will (Maybe) Get Me on The Ellen Show
For those following along on Facebook and Twitter you know that I just finished my Dance-a-Day Project which was inspired by The ArtClash! Collective‘s annual Fun-a-Day Project and Show. The idea behind the Fun-a-Day Project is to select a creative task (of any kind, really) and complete it once a day for the entire month of January.
I first heard about all this jazz from the “song a day mann,” Jonathan Mann when we interviewed him and his girlfriend, Ivory back in the first week of December. I kind of let it pass and didn’t give it much thought. But then, rather suddenly and with only a few days remaining in December I turned to Ethan and said, “I’d like to participate in the next Fun-a-Day Project. I can do a dance a day!” Knowing how much I love dance, he was all about it until I explained that not only did I want to complete one dance a day but that I also wanted to perform each dance in a public location, with ear buds in so no one else could hear the song I was dancing to, and that he’d be videotaping … every … single … one. Eep!
We successfully made it through and now that I’m reflecting on the experience I couldn’t help but want to share with you how this seemingly simple, short-term event has since changed my life.
Initially, I didn’t truly consider the fear factor in this challenge. However, over the years I’ve found that I seem to naturally move toward challenging life experiences (hello year-long road trip across the country!). I guess it boils down to wanting to really, truly live my life as designed by me. Therefore, when I have an idea or see something that I think will enrich my life I start taking actions toward that ‘thing’ before giving it a second thought. Sometimes before I even realize I’m doing it!
I’m sure my closest friends were not at all surprised by this dance project. They all know I love to dance and have occasional outgoing moments — always the one to pick dare over truth. But, when not in the company of those I feel most comfortable with, I can be rather shy and introverted. What?! You’re surprised? Well, I’m working on it! ;)
Anywho, what I found was, over the course of the month I became increasingly anxious about the next dance. What music, and where to do the next one? What if it turns out to be super boring for those watching? What if the music cuts out? What if there’s an issue with the camera? What if I get too nervous and can’t do it? What if I make a fool of myself? These thoughts, among others, swirled around my head almost every new day that another dance was on the line.
I would talk myself through these swirly swirls and remind myself that I’m doing this because I love to dance and that facing fears (and pushing through them) is healthy for mind and body. It must be! Your heart starts pumping with more purpose, doubt sets in, but you tell yourself ‘what’s the worse that could happen,’ and you step forward. You might step back again but you remind yourself that it’s do-able and besides, it’s going to feel exhilarating once you’ve completed said goal. Yes? Yes!
In essence you’re conditioning yourself to look fear in the face, stand tall, and push through rather than crumble under the pressure. Take THAT, “fear!” Pow! Pow!
I’m reminded of Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week. It’s one of the books that initiated my drive to wear my passions and to live my dreams. :) Throughout the book Ferriss assigns readers “comfort challenges” in order to navigate working outside their comfort zones. He says, “the most important actions are never comfortable. Thinking is passive. Get used to acting outside the box.” Here are some of the comfort challenges Ferriss recommends.
- Eye Gaze – For two days straight can you initiate and maintain eye contact with complete strangers? The trick is to NOT be the first one to look away.
- Propose – Ferriss suggests trying to get a few phone numbers from strangers. “Excuse me, I know this is going to sound strange, but if I don’t ask you now, I’ll be kicking myself for the rest of the day. I’m running to meet a friend [i.e., I have friends and am not a stalker], but I think you’re really [extremely, drop dead] cute [gorgeous, hot]. Could I have your phone number? I’m not a psycho—I promise. You can give me a fake one if you’re not interested.”
- Relax in Public – Simply lie down in the middle of a crowded public place at some point. Lunchtime is ideal. There is no real technique. Just lie down and remain silent on the ground for 10 seconds. Then get up and continue with what you were doing.
Let me know if you do any of these. Remember, don’t try. Do. :)
I will say that despite some anxiety surrounding the dances, once I completed each one I did feel great. Like I had accomplished something. And as added bonuses I got a little exercise, and found out that the videos were encouraging others as well! Win-win-win!
Unexpectedly Inspiring Others + Happily Making New Friends
It took me by surprise when my good friend, Jeanette Richelson (co-founder of Roost: House of Juice) shared my day 1 dance video on her Facebook wall with such enthusiasm and support. It was wonderful! And before day two was complete she had decided to start her own Fun-a-Day Project:
What I love about Jeanette’s smoothie-a-day project is that she not only expressed her desire for inspiring healthy living in others (as evident by her new business, opening this spring) but she also displayed her creativity with ingredients, and through the art of her photography.
By day five Jeanette had also created her own ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ video! :)
I first met Jeanette back in 2008 when I started my internship at the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, where she was working. I still remember being in awe of her drive for healthy living and for helping animals. Since then, Jeanette has continually inspired me to look within, to grow, to make delicious smoothies, and to live life on my own terms.
Jeanette, thank you for all you’ve done for me over the years. I’m so glad that you shared my little dance project and that it moved you to create your own. :) xo
I shared my dance-a-day videos via my Facebook page, which I believe is how Jeanette got wind of the project. Jeanette then shared some of my videos on her Facebook page which made the project visible to all of her friends (aah, the beauty of social media). Because of this shared share, on day four I received the following message from one of Jeanette’s friends:
I just messaged Jeanette to this end, but your videos really are … delightful and inspiring! I laughed out loud, clapped my hands and smiled as if I were sharing the experience first-hand. On paper it’s a small thing but in essence is massive and truly brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing these videos. What a fantastic, light-hearted example and expression of joy! We all should incorporate that level of freedom and beauty into every day.
So many wonderful things to learn from so many people! Thanks for being one of them.
I was overjoyed to read such kind words and from a complete stranger, nonetheless. Until this point I hadn’t even considered that these videos would go beyond providing a good laugh. It sparked a new intention behind the project:
Thank you so much for the kind words. I must say that going into this project I had no idea how much joy it would bring to me. And it’s just a tremendous, added bonus to know that it makes others smile too!
I’ve been in a real slump for about 2 months or so…and forcing myself to dance, put on a smile, and do it in places that make me a little nervous (um, in public…haha) was exactly what I needed. I was just thinking last night that it’s so amazing how, when you push yourself just a teeny tiny bit beyond your ‘normal’ comfort zone, all of a sudden new doors open, your attitude and outlook change, and you start taking control of situations in your life, instead of letting them control you.
I think I’m going to write up a blog post at the end of the 31 days talking about what I’ve learned from this experience because on the outside it might just look like an outgoing chick who has doesn’t give a crap. But deep down, this entire thing is changing my life. And now.. I get to hear from people like you which just makes me SOOOOO happy, beyond words.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
I’m delighted to say that Ryan and I have become great friends. It turns out that he’s a relatively new vegetarian working toward veganism. I think I know someone who can help with this transition! ;)
Ryan, thank you for your support over these few weeks, for initiating a beautiful friendship, and for your strength, insights, wisdom, and clarity. :) xo
Nearing the close of dance-a-day, I got the following message from my friend, Andreas:
I still can’t get over the incredible support and enthusiasm friends like Jeanette and Andreas, and people I didn’t even know, like Ryan provided throughout this little who-knew-just-how-deeply-it-would-effect-me project. Thank you soooo much!!!!! xo
Ellen’s Dance Dare!
The wonderful Hannah Winograd notified me of Ellen’s Dance Dare, which was posted to YouTube mid-January. The dare is to dance behind someone who doesn’t know you’re there. If she shows a clip of your submission on her show you get a Target gift card (I think ) and if you’re selected as the winner you get to dance on her show.
I’m sure you can believe that I nearly hyperventilated at the mere thought of being on Ellen. After all, I did campaign to have her sponsor this very trip, before it got started. — Hey, Ellen – did you ever get that video I sent ‘ya over the summer?! — The timing was just right and I figured I’d do my last dance as my submission to the Dance Dare. I created the video and posted it to YouTube on January 31st. I haven’t heard anything yet but I’m not losing hope!
Dance on The Ellen Show = meeting Ellen = sharing love of veganism = meeting Ellen = DANCING ON Ellen’s show = meeting Ellen….
Where was I? Oh yes. So, if you’re up for it I’d be delighted for you to share this video submission on Twitter and Facebook as it will help create more awareness and hopefully, maybe, fingers crossed, get me on The Ellen Show!!!!!!!! :)
The Good Stuff
I hope that you’ll consider facing some of your own fears, with purpose. Whether it’s work related, or telling someone how you really feel about them, or standing up for what you believe in, or starting your own business, or going to the movies or out to eat by yourself, or taking a vacation alone. Or maybe even asking that cute stranger for their number. Just don’t forget that it most certainly doesn’t have to be about putting yourself on display or doing x, y, and z just because. It’s about doing what you love regardless of what others might think, say, or do in response. It’s about feeling that fear creep in and embracing it, holding it, and loving it as it’s a sign of growth and strength. Like exercising your body, or going veg for your health it’s important to exercise that beautiful brain of yours. Start. Now.
Regarding the alone stuff (which I do believe is invaluable my well being), I often find this video inspiring:
Before I go I want to give a few shout outs to those of you who supported this mini project by sending me encouraging words, leaving beautiful comments, and everything in between that made this experience like no other: my parents, Deeya R., Dayle R., The Chicago Vegan Family Network, Ethan D., Hannah W., Paul (dance pro), Andreas T., Nathan B., Sam H., Eddie L., Mark L., Meredith L., Leah P., Michael H., Sarah K., Samantha P., Connie S., Jose R., Cale K., Joe P., Alexis H., Kathy C., Kristina L., Tonya, F., Craig W., Rita P., Trinette F., Jonathan M., Rick M., Sarah P., Vanessa R., Erica H., Chris Z., Daniel L., Lori K., Tyler B., Kristen M., Mary Jane S., Dan M., Rory G., Tommy C., Sarah S., Steve S., EB C., Kim P., Alyssa L., Rachel K., Mario N., Dawn C., Hallie A., Holly G., Mark W., Kevin S., Lauren M., Dawn F., Ben S., Cas B., Randall C., Maurice J., Whitney L., Emma R., Paul G., Laura C., Sarah R., Maggie H., Annie H., Daniel Z., Tia K., Lora A., Eric W., Hisham K., Melis C., Robin B., Michael K., Christy M., Danielle L., Melanie P., Jina D., Aunt Sue, Lisa H., Jeff S., Stephanie W., Karen S., Launa A., Minku S., Maryann M., Dazzler F., Shannon H., Emily P., Kimberly M., Alexandra G., Carolyn H., Mick D., Linda I., Nichole S., Nicole B., Katie V., Rose T., Alexandru M., Eva G., Timothy N., Mariela R., Janene C., Simone C., Squirrels G., Lori E., Sarah B., Jared F., Bob B., Ariela R., Kele U., Russell B., Marty K., Clød T., Marine C., Glenn B., Erin D., Arnie W., Charlotte E., Chris C., Karen M., Gail R., Kelly B., Annah M., Jennifer G., My Vegan Journal, Molly P., Kristina G., Monique H., Leslieanne G., Mele M., Lou T., Daniel S., Alyson B., Jordan Z., Dave B., Maite K., Gluten Free Vegan Journey, Matthew W., Kelly C., Leonie W., Jarrod B., Amanda R., Shelley W., Terah P., Michael F., Carol C. <— THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
Finally, I shall leave you with THE most popular/talked about dance of the entire 31 days. I give you, Barnes & Noble featuring Björk: