“JourneyDance is more than a workout.”
This is language that I thought would make sense to the audience at the community center/gym where I teach. The idea of a workout, the goals of a workout are what resonate with people who join gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, and fitness programs. In fact, where I teach is one of the most welcoming and inclusive spaces to find opportunities to “work out.” Even so, it is still a space that many people are afraid to venture into, especially alone. Gyms and fitness studios are not just the great unknown; they are hostile territory. For some, this kind of vibe—the culture of working out—is a major turn off.
To even refer to JourneyDance as a workout is doing a disservice to what it is all about, and this is not the first time that I have wondered if a group fitness/gym space is the best place to offer this new healing modality that I have fallen in love with.
JourneyDance is not a workout at all. Will participants burn calories? Yes. Will their heartrates increase? Yes. Will they sweat, burn fat, tone their bodies, and get a cardiovascular workout? Yes, most likely. Will they grow stronger and more flexible? Yes. All of these are hallmarks of a “workout.” But I don’t see these as the goals of a JourneyDance class and it is not at all how I would describe the class. JourneyDance is not “dance fitness.” It is, but it isn’t. The hallmarks of the classic workout are more like the side effects of JourneyDance.
Cardiovascular endurance, increased strength, weight loss and maintenance, and other such physical fitness measures are the goals of traditional workouts and group fitness classes. I can’t count the number of times I have been asked how many calories someone can expect to burn in a class I am teaching. The side effects that often come with a good work out—stress relief, better proprioception, a sense of well-being, enhanced mood, emotional balance, and improved mental health—are not the benefits that we typically use to sell fitness programs.
In fact, such things are rarely discussed in fitness spaces. We attract people to fitness programs and classes with promises of weight loss and sometimes with promises of improved health. And less often with promises of health and well-being. These are mainstream motivational tools—promises that cannot be kept by programs or classes alone. There is a reason why we call working out work. Physical fitness, health, and well-being take commitment and consistency and there is no easy formula or magic pill, despite what the diet and fitness industry want to sell us.
JourneyDance is not a workout. It might be more accurate to call JourneyDance a work in. But it is more of a both/and. We work our bodies, but the work of our bodies is not the goal. We work in the inner realm of our minds, emotions, and spirit. What is the goal? Does there even have to be a goal? Set, measurable goals are what the fitness industry exploits. The goals of weight, size, strength, health are elusive. They are straw men—distorted versions of the reality of living, being, ageing, and existing in this world. When we don’t reach the goals we have bought into, we blame ourselves and the vicious cycle continues. JourneyDance interrupts that vicious cycle and creates new possibilities for living, being, ageing, and existing in this world.
If there is a goal in JourneyDance, it is a goal that grows with us day by day, dance by dance. One day the goal might be to sweat and de-stress. The next day it might be to let go of the mental garbage we accumulate. The next day it might be to connect with other people in a safe/brave/sacred container. We might aim to tap into the inner wisdom of our bodies, our own innate ability to heal. We might not know what the goal is until it has been accomplished. We might never pin it down. It doesn’t matter. The old adage applies: it’s not the destination; it’s the journey!
In JourneyDance, we are moved by music. Dance is only movement and moving our bodies—moving our bodies joyously, purposefully, and ecstatically to music—is medicine. For years I sought to encapsulate the work that I do in the world of fitness—the closest I could get was the tagline: Move and Be Moved. When I discovered JourneyDance, I found the form of movement that I had been working toward all along. When we let go enough to just move, we will be moved in all kinds of ways.
As I stated earlier, JourneyDance is not “dance fitness”—it is so much more. JourneyDance is a healing modality. It is a form of conscious dance. It is a transformative experience of mind/body/spirit. It is different every time we do it; it meets us where we are and it gives us what we need. This is not the description that will resonate with people who are looking to work out. Some of us would rather buy into the partial truths of the fitness industry because these narratives feel safe—they are promises that sometimes yield desirable results. There is nothing wrong with working out. To each their own.
But I have chosen to offer JourneyDance in a gym/community center setting because I have always pushed at the boundaries of the boxes that the fitness industry constructs. I hope to give members an opportunity to try something different, to add an outside-the-box dimension to their routine, to go deeper and discover new mind/body connections and possibilities. And I hope to attract new members who might reap the many benefits that this non-profit community center/gym offers. We are complex beings and what we do with our bodies should be as multidimensional as we are.
*I have chosen not to picture this flier or to mention the name of the place where I teach because I am writing as a Professor and fitness/dance/yoga professional with more than 25 years of experience and my opinions are not meant to represent the place where I teach. This is a commentary on the fitness industry as a whole, not the specific place where I teach.