A few months ago, after being repeatedly encouraged by friends, I decided to check out a class at a local dance studio. I browsed through the descriptions of the various classes and for some reason, a class called “Pop Video with Brandon” just stood out to me. Who doesn't want to be able to dance like they’re killing it in a music video?
So, I showed up to my first day of class, and as I sat on the wooden floor of the dance studio, stretching, I realized that I was really nervous. I hadn’t taken a dance class in over 15 years, and even then I took modern and ballet. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to learn the pop and hip hop infused choreography and that I would end up just making a fool out of myself. Just as my anxiety was starting to hit a peak, the instructor walked, or rather, bounced into the room.
I was instantly fascinated with Brandon. Everything about him was striking. Physically, he was tall and lean, with ebony skin, and a megawatt smile. He was dressed in true pop video star style, with 1970s basketball short shorts, sneaks, and a barely there tank top, and somehow, on him, the look seemed simultaneously fabulous and effortless. Even more striking than his appearance though, was, what I can only describe as, his aura. An incredible light seemed to radiate from him, and I was so busy being intrigued by this person that I forgot how nervous I was.
Brandon hit the music and we warmed up to the sounds of Beyonce, Britney Spears, and Michael Jackson, before shifting into the choreography. I watched Brandon demonstrate dance sequences, and I could feel my movements becoming stiff and awkward as my incredibly stubborn perfectionist tendencies took hold. I continued to study Brandon, trying to understand the secret to his dance amazingness, and then it hit me. While he was certainly executing every move to perfection, fluid in one moment and then sharp the next, it wasn’t what he was doing as much as how he was doing it.
The only word that accurately describes Brandon when he dances is fierce. As I watched Brandon dance, I noticed that he was expressing every ounce of his passion, joy, and talent in every movement. He wasn't holding anything back, he was fearless, and it was a revelation. He moved around the room, beaming his infectious, child-like smile and calling out encouraging things to my classmates and me. “Work it!....Yeah!...Holla!”
I looked around at my various classmates—people of every age, shape, color, and gender. They, too, were completely letting go and dancing like their lives depended on it. No, not everyone was hitting every move perfectly, but no one seemed to care. They were all too busy being Beyonce, Britney, or Michael.
As I found my own fearlessness and began to let go of my inhibitions, self-criticisms, and worries, I found a power inside of myself that I didn’t even realize I had been suppressing. I found my own fierceness, and I realized that this is what makes a pop star. This is the “it factor” that people talk about. The ability to not hold back even a tiny bit of your own greatness, and I couldn’t help but think about one of my favorite Marianne Williamson quotes.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ ”
In that moment, I realized how much I have lived within this perspective, this idea that I should be careful not to shine too brightly. That it might be threatening to someone else or that it might be too much to live up to. That, maybe, I am not worthy of being great. But the ever-wise Marianne Williamson goes on to ask the question that Brandon implied in his class. “Who are you not to be?” Why should you subdue your light?
Williamson illuminates the truth that was unveiling itself to me. Sweat-soaked, in the middle of a dance class, with club music blasting, I realized what my classmates and Brandon seemed to already know. “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
This is what Brandon’s class was about—liberation. Liberation from our fears, from the limitations that we place upon ourselves. I went into a dance class, hoping to get a good sweat and some new moves, and I came away with a lesson that I have carried with me every day since: Not only do you not have to hide your light, you absolutely should let your light shine as brightly as it will, because the very act of doing so just might give someone else permission to do the same. And that is, most definitely, a gift.
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