On the first Wednesday of the month, we invite a member of our community to write a guest post for our blog. This post is written by River, who's a member of our Hamilton GS community in Ontario, and will be facilitating our new GS Mental Health Zoom Group. She's been a tireless advocate for mental health in our community, and in this post, she talks about what GS dance parties (including dance parties on Zoom) have meant to her. Don't miss her poem - it's read in a voice-over in the captioned video at the end!
Confession: I have not always loved dancing. I didn't go to dances as a teenager. In university I tried, but everyone seemed so graceful, rhythmic, and sexy. And I saw myself as clunky, corny, and fat. I loved to move my body to music, just not when anyone was watching. With time I learned to quiet the inner critic and enjoy nights out dancing with friends, but there was always the voice within telling me I should just sit down and let the others move to the music.
This changed when I discovered the wonder of a Generous Space Dance Party. There is an energy I truly cannot describe, so I won't try, but I will invite you to join us next time so you can experience it yourself. At the West Coast retreat in 2018, I rocked to the rhythm with dozens of others while my mom painted faces and gave people glitter beards. Folks wore their pride flags as capes, affirmed their gender identities with clothing they might not feel comfortable wearing in other places, and belted along to Lizzo, Whitney Houston and Scissor Sisters while DJ Why So Serious spun jam after jam. In the morning we discovered the carpet was covered in a fine sprinkling of glitter, thanks to the many-coloured beards from the night before. I grew up in a church that believed gold flecks were a miraculous sign of God's presence. Perhaps no miracle, but here was solid evidence all around us of the spirit we embodied the night before.
With such high expectations, I was unsure how a virtual dance party could work. As someone who has largely deconstructed the faith of my youth, the dance party has become one of the most spiritually engaging aspects of the retreat. I can't help but feel caught up in the same sense of worship, celebration, gratitude and communion I used to get from evangelical services. How could dancing alone in my room compare?
DJ Why So Serious had all the right songs, of course, with incredible virtual backgrounds cropping herself into scenes from The L Word and Queer Eye. But that is not what made the dance party so special for me. It was the energy of every participant and, an unexpected benefit of a virtual party, the increased accessibility. In a new way, everyone who wanted to participate could participate. Whether you wanted to stand, sit, lay on your bed, be seen or not seen, everyone could move to the music the way that felt best. No one was left on the sidelines. The energy was wild! Costume changes! Props! Glow sticks! Even a wacky wind person showed up! My feet ached but I kept moving, taking breaks to sit when I needed but still dancing and part of the party.
I have a journal where I collect daily evidence against nihilism. Without evangelical faith as a system of meaning-making in my life, and as someone prone to despair, I can at times default to meaninglessness. So I began to track the things I found every day that brought a sense of purpose and beauty to my being. What are we here for? With all the grief and rage of our current world, why should we look for expressions of joy? Why even dance at all? Nihilism threatens to destroy my life. I need practical physical expressions of my emotions that hold meaning, sacred rituals that allow me to move through my emotions and remember why I am alive.
That's what this night became for me. A moment to remember all that gives my life meaning: my connection to community and creation, the empowerment of a people celebrating their diversity, the reclaiming of so many parts of ourselves we have been shamed for. Together we moved to the rhythm, moved by the spirit within us and our community. Reflecting later, I wrote a poem which I share in the video below with footage from that glittery night in 2018.
Perhaps miracles do happen on dance floors, even virtual ones. Thanks to everyone who was a part of that night; it won't be soon forgotten.