Life can be stressful. Really stressful. But I refuse to get stuck there. Want my secret prescription?
Busting some moves! The 30-minute dance party is my favorite way to lighten up when I’m taking myself too seriously…or when the weight of the world bears down hard.
My move busting days began as early as I can remember. My single mom, raising 2 kids in the early 1970s in a NYC housing project got me started. She’d come home after a long work day, kick off her shoes before she was even all the way through the apartment door, hang up her coat and then on the music would go while dinner was cooking. Not super loud. But cranked enough to make it an honest-to-goodness dance party. Usually 50’s music. Or Motown. We had loud dance parties most New Years Eves. I could shock you with how many 50’s and Motown songs I know. I’ve bet my husband on it before. He always loses. I know a lot of them.
Dancing figured into my pre-MD years as a midwife. Not only did I dance during my own labors, but I had a dance mix prepared for me by this fantastic Latino percussionist. Slipped into the mix were a few excellent baby birthing songs for those times when the energy and the labor got a little stuck. The Beatles Twist and Shout and UB40’s Red Red Wine were once instrumental in facilitating a stalled birth. The parents, my assistant and I were all about the hip opening moves one humid summer night around 2am in Atlanta about 15 years ago! That wasn’t the first or the last time a baby was danced outta’ the womb.
Naturally, my kids, and now my granddaughter, too, are no strangers to my dance party ways. I’ve danced my granddaughter to sleep in her front pack when nothing else would settle her. And how great is it that my daughter-in-law loves dance parties, too?!
My med school BFF for life, Michelle Collins and I took quite a few bootie shaking study breaks…often to Prince. Michelle is a radiologist who previously went to a performing arts high school for dance. She can move. Me? I’m just a girl who took up belly dancing for a short time in second grade – I actually did a performance in the auditorium in front of my entire elementary school. And I once won a dance-contest to “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” I can’t move like Michelle. But I love to dance… Some of my best dance parties are solo. The first thing I usually do when I get some time alone is blast some music and dance until I’m pink-cheeked and out-of-breath! Then I settle down to write or study.
Music? I still love 50’s Rock ‘n Roll. That’s what’s playing on my Pandora as I write. My feet are tapping. But I also have a mean Led Zeppelin air guitar dance routine. And you should see my Aerosmith “walk this way” moves.Prince? MJ? The Stones? The Temptations? Chaka Kahn? Sister Sledge? Shakira? TLC? The Bee Gees? Michael Franti? Swing, Reggae, Hip Hop? Oh yeah. Bring ‘it on.
My med school BFF is, I am sure, reading this and groaning. She’s seen my air guitar. And my dance moves. I know she thinks I should enter a national contest (not!). She loves me anyway. So does my husband who is regularly subject (dare I say hostage?) to my modified car trip dance parties while I am the passenger and he the driver. It makes the miles pass faster! Did I mention that these dance parties are usually accompanied by my exceptionally loud singing?
Dancing is a common stress relief tool among doctors. When I was in Haiti, I worked with, a smart, elegant, skilled obstetrician who happened to keep his I-Phone in his pocket, music playing, during surgeries. All scrubbed in and focused, this mostly Haitian Creole- speaking doctor would operate while singing to Beyoncé. And every now and again I would catch a glimpse of hip action or foot moves, in striking contrast to the steadiness of his capable surgical hands.
A surgeon I often assisted at Yale was all techno-boogie in the OR as he’d remove a sick gall bladder or a ruptured appendix. He told me that he dresses up in all black and goes to a Rave in NYC annually for a major de-stressing session. Major move buster!
And one of the most famous cardiac surgeons in the world, whom I had the honor to assist about half-dozen times during medical school, always had classic rock amped in the OR. He wasn’t dancing externally – he was replacing aortic valves – but I am certain he busts moves at home. Music helps with concentration. Dancing keeps the body relaxed and the spirit free.
TV docs boogie down, too. I was watching Gray’s Anatomy recently. Yes, I watch Gray’s Anatomy. Please don’t judge or be disappointed in me. It’s the only TV show I watch. I’ve never missed an episode. A different medical school classmate got me into it during our first year at Yale. [It’s your fault, Esi]
At that time I could relate to Gray’s (that’s what us regular viewers call it). Not the sex in the call rooms. Nobody ever really goes into call rooms to have sex. Rarely even to sleep, for that matter. I could relate to the fatigue, the vulnerability, the losses and grief, and the small triumphs of the characters. And to the dance parties. In a recent episode, Meredith Gray, a serious Type A character after whom the show is named, has a triumph during a stressful surgery. She suddenly stops what she’s doing, mid-surgery and asks the interns, who are terrified of her, if they know what comes next. They look perplexed and anxious that they don’t. Suddenly she smiles and says “30-second dance party. “And she makes them do-it. And they laugh. I totally got it.
If you’ve never treated yourself to a dance party, I highly recommend it. Consider it a prescription if you’re otherwise healthy. 30-minutes gives you a fantastic total work out. Burns calories. And lifts the weight of the world. Even 30 seconds helps!
I hope I’m dancing into my centennial years. I suspect that doing it regularly now will increase the chances of that! It’s my therapy and cardio work out all at once.
I’m so eager to hear what you do to REALLY relax and let loose. Ever bust a move? Do you have a favorite dance party story? What’s your favorite dance music? Do tell all in the comments section below!