Don't Worry About the Mountain
Since the first flows of consciousness drummed into the internal rhythms of humans, we have delighted in movement in sync with a higher vibration. Sounds are nothing more than wave forms. The body compromising of mostly water naturally has its own resonance, ebb, and flow influenced acutely at times by the heavens above, but you wouldn’t believe it. At the most minute level of existence, everything in the world of form arises from a state of pure potential. Trance = home. This humors me in my aspirations.
To those who cultivate the gift of dance and let it bless their own life, a common thread I’ve noticed in my own sashaying through various circles and communities is that the understanding of rhythm synthesized through the dancer has always felt innate. As soon as they could balance on their own two legs or even crawl, they were shaking it. I was no different. Nor were you, even if you can’t remember.
There is a cosmic wiggle instilled inside all of us from the jump before we can even identify with a structure of self. One of our first building blocks of awareness is via sound in the womb; a faint tremble of consciousness nursed into being alongside our mother’s heartbeat. Of course, chance, genetics, ethnicity—pick any song you want—all factor into the equation somewhat afterwards. Yet, anyone reading this can do the simple arithmetic available and conclude dance is likely an important part of our physical existence if we are hardwired for it. Maybe, just maybe, intelligence lives in your body, not the mind and all its ideas about the body.
In my humble and far from widely encompassing experience, one of two things happens when a talent is recognized in our youth: parental figures recognizing the child’s gift and attempt to encourage and foster it through classes, camps, academies, traditional or otherwise, OR the spark remains a simple blip that gets washed over in favor of more socially acceptable and career-oriented paths as they get older because in this reality you need money. The freedom of creativity thrashing within innocence calls lightness into our world far beyond what we can comprehend. Which is probably why we very often can’t seem to just let it be.
Walking into a Breakin studio as a complete noob is a total act of courage. If you’re reading this and fall into that category, girl, boy, they, them, young, old, fit, inflexible, whatever expression of beautiful human you’ve incarnated into, don’t sell yourself short. Anytime we dare to freely express ourselves we court the magical by being willing to be the fool. This is the essence of brilliance. To begin any journey is an act of surrender to the unknown, and you never know how much more fire you’re going to need as time dances on. How you think Hip-Hop came about?
The allure of Breakin to outsiders is very strong. No matter where you first encounter it, you can hardly be but in awe at the blend of martial arts, gymnastics, instinct, cultural commentary, and individual style spinning before you in intimate conversation with the music. It’s absolutely mesmerizing. If you can watch breakers at the highest level duke it out without your hype levels peaking then you need a serious vibe check. Like, seriously yo. This is what always got me.
Whether it was YouTube videos or in the cafeteria, I’d watch someone tear up a cypher and my mind would get giddy with the thought of being able to do the same. What if.. What if, what if..? Nothing like a headspin in the middle of the party to catch everyone’s eye. There is a glamor to the spotlight that ropes us all in on some level. The yearn to be recognized and respected. These are all natural parts of human being. If you’re gonna break, you need swagger. If you’re gonna break you need a pretty established ego.
Now, that last sentence may have made you feel some sort of way.
Modern discourse predisposes us to think that to have an ego with something is inherently bad. However, ego/ mind/persona/ whatever label you like to call the voice in your head, is the only way spirit comes down into form. We need it to transcend it. And in Breakin you need a tough one so you can keep going through the endless journey of learning, un-learning, and re-flavoring of moves in tandem with constantly advancing your own physical strength and flexibility.
Plus, whether you get to this level or not, Breakin is all about the battle. It’s about being YOU, which means you gotta figure out who YOU are. And like any exploration of the self, you come up against shadows.
We can put such immense pressure on ourselves to be anywhere but where we are. You see some OG at the studio hitting 1990 after 1990 with a smile and we say I want that without any real understanding of what it took to get there for that person. This sort of shallow inquiry plagues all levels of society. It’s so easy to compare.
So we train and train because we want to be tough, and our teachers and TikTok tell us we need to work hard if we’re going to “make it”, so when we come up against pain we push harder or ignore it completely. This was me, until two knee surgeries, one broken wrist, and three years of sobriety made me stop, listen and treat my body with the respect it deserves, not force it to the throes of what my mind wants. It begs the question though, where exactly are we ‘making it’ to? "Don’t worry about the mountain. Just look at your feet.”
Big egos create the environment for pride, self-neglect and grit to thrive. “I’m the best, I gotta be the best, no one can stop me.” This is not negative commentary. Far from it. To survive the concrete jungle of inner city ghettos where Hip-Hop sprung from, there was and is today, no luxury of being soft because somewhere very close to that code in our DNA that makes us dance, it’s also imprinted in us to survive. At the nexus of these two impulses is that thump of all creation. After we are courageous enough to be the fool, all art invokes the hero’s journey.
The club is the great pétri dish of dance; a sanctuary of sound where people can break free from the grind, regardless of their race, religion, gender, background, and any other hang up you might have. There are no mountains or oceans in the inner city. Escaping the mind comes down to getting free with what you got. People talk about America being a melting pot, but everyone still seems to prefer their own bowls most the time. The club is the pot fam. That’s (duh) where all club style dances originated. Therefore, one can’t fully understand those dances, until they recognize the necessary public service the club provided as a playground for safe self-expression when these genres of MUSIC came into being. Because there is no any-style of dance without the music. This should humble us.
In this current moment though, even as Breakin sets to debut officially in the Olympics next year, the momentum has shifted culturally to house music, and if you are a dancer—of any style, of any regularity—you know this. It’s everywhere. In every coffeeshop or hotel lobby, while you wait for your car at the car wash or wander through endless crowds at the countless music festivals now littered worldwide. The zeitgeist is mainlining the bass. Club culture IS culture. And many people who consider themselves a part of that culture don’t even know there is such a thing as house dance. If you have your feet in the pool already, trust me when I say that nothing will take your style to the next level quite like deep-diving on said style’s history. We’re not quite reinventing the wheel here.
House dance allowed me to keep my finger on the pulse while I recovered from injury and has since turned into my favorite style, simply as compared to others, it allows more for the expression of any other form of dance within it. It’s always music first, then you. Breakin is also about music first, then you, but it’s a different flavor. I guess all dance is about music first, then you, but with that not so subtle caveat that if you feel really at home in yourself you can make anything work in the moment. Let this greatly encourage you.
For me, it’s something like this: Breakin is about the showcase of the self through music in a competitive spirit. It’s an aggressive dance. House is the abandonment of the self to spirit as a means of finding oneself in the music. It leans into the divine. These are not exclusive qualities, and apply to both, and every other style, so if you don’t agree, remember this is an op-ed not a gospel. In fact, this is really a meandering with no specific end goal and that’s by design. It’s like yoga vs. tantra; the method vs. surrender. Both approaches require discipline, and they’ll both get you where you need to go if you let them.
The battle always ensures living for a point in the future. A goal, a place to be and a time to you’ll need to be there. Like, fully there. A moment other than right now you’ll need to be fully present in the moment. When you watch the best dancers dance, they are literally not present, they ARE presence. What is happening is the only way it can be happening. A transmission of source re-sourced in the temple of the body. As a dancer this is what you live for: siphoned drops of absolute quintessence. Pure flow state. https://youtube.com/clip/Ugkx8bd8rOx-z4JM08IgTJ1CYZDXCUqKYjd5
No doubt: the upper echelons of the dance experience get unlocked through rigorous training. Though, at some point in the hero’s journey we meet an obstacle, a wall gets hit, or some mythical shadowy beast inside us must be defeated and in order to proceed, for true creative expansion to continue, the forms must be dropped. The irony here is that art is one of the best ways to find your true self, and in order to dance in a way that ripples through the hearts of everyone around you, you need to forget yourself and give it over to the honed intuition of the body once you get there! It’s the complete removal of self that reminds us of home. I let this deeply comfort me.
When you force anything, the joy leaves. I’ve come across more than a few people who were strictly encouraged or pressed by parents or coaches to dance growing up, who now have an aversion to dance, or find it hard to let loose, in one of arguably the healthiest and easily accessible methods available to us to let go of the stress forced upon us in contemporary life. In this regard, I consider myself extremely lucky to have started dancing as an adult and not as a kid.
If you are reading this and want to dance more, it’s not just the club, the cypher, or the studio. I’ve been attending ecstatic dances regularly for almost two years now. To many dancers and non-dancers, the concept of ecstatic dance is a hard one to get down with. Because like– all dance is ecstatic that’s why we be doing it. For those unfamiliar, the basic premise is no shoes, no talking, no substances, and express yourself however you want: “Ecstatic Dance is a free form dance meditation that encourages you to express oneself through movement with the support of an intentionally curated musical journey. The 'ecstatic' aspect refers to spontaneous and unrestrained movement, without concern for the aesthetics of the dance. By allowing ourselves to freely dance, we can express emotion and release stress, tension or emotions stored in our bodies. Ecstatic Dance provides a safe space to embark on a journey designed to encourage deeper connection with ourselves and others.”
These so called ‘sacred’ dance spaces continue to proliferate the world scene in stride with wave after wave of New Age spirituality dogma, or sometimes called ‘woke BS’ or ‘woo-woo’ by even myself at times. But lets drop that ego trip for a moment and ask ourselves FR: when is the last time you really let yourself dance without an agenda? Without the goal of looking a certain way? Without that destination of a combo on the edge of your mind or waiting for that part of the song you love to tear up? When is the last time you tried to dance to music that you might not like? When did dance become anything other than celebration for you? It’s funny to me when I find people who think dance must be approached a certain way. We tend to grow up and get so serious. Especially about the thing we love most of all! And for sure, go for the gold. Climb the mountain. I will follow and cheer you on. But also, just close your eyes and check your body at the door. I don’t care which door, just leave it, sweat and laugh. All dance is ecstatic, that’s why we do it! Ecstatic dance as a style of dance has grown in popularity because spaces outside the often drug-heavy and now commercialized club scene are needed for people to authentically connect to the universal. Rather than try to decipher right or wrong in a completely subjective reality we should look at where the battle, the hippies, and all the club heads are pointing: to spirit.
“I know what the spirit can do to the move and what the move can do to your spirit.” -Ejoe Wilson A missing quality in the lives of many in the Western world today, especially for those millennials who have managed to break free from the religious frameworks handed off to them by their parents and are forced to navigate the endless waters of consumerism disguised as God. These days, we really really forget to forget ourselves.
The moment is eternal and dance reminds us of this. It brings to the surface that which is eternal inside every body. We are playful creatures in our soul. It’s the mind’s shape of the world that we are forced to interact with that doesn’t fit the bill. Dance is therapy for me, and not in the clinical speak that’s infused itself into every facet of life. It’s therapy because dance is communion with the collective, and the collective is YOU.
Regardless of what dance floor you find yourself on, if your body is there, your awareness expands to those around you, and reminds you that you are much more than the voice in your head. You are part of something expansive too—a frequency that resonates, a tapestry with a heartbeat.
Dance is one of the best ways to learn how to embrace the richness available to us in any instant. The best remedy, the best preparation for any future moment, is to be fully present in this one, right here, right now, and to be moved by it. Despite what life throws at us, if we’ve had a bad day or week or month or year or life, we can let the collective bring us up without a word being said. Dance is a collective journey as much as an individual saga.
I write this for myself and you reading as a continuum of that: when we take it too seriously we forget one of the most fundamental pillars of a good life and that is to have fun. When the fun leaves we should take note. Wherever you are in your journey, if what makes your soul happy has become anything less than joyful just take a pause. Take a breath. You’ll find your groove again. Because joy is where love spins out from and love is undoubtedly where everyone’s first dance arises from. It’s how we know to dance without having ever heard the music.