Take Me (Back) to (Dance) Church: My Summer Dance Discovery

The home screen of my laptop is FULL of pink sticky notes. They hold to-do lists, reminders, goals, quotes and everything else that I need to remember but would forget entirely if it weren’t shining in my face all day. 

But over the summer, they held something much more exciting. 

I lived in Seattle for two months, and in the weeks leading up to my trip, I extensively researched the city and every possible thing I could do there. I planned weekend getaways and set touristy goals in a note, aptly titled “To-Do in Seattle.” 

My summer bucket list included paddleboard yoga, hiking in the mountains, seeing the space needle (duh), watching Sleepless in Seattle while sleepless in Seattle, visiting as many farmers markets as possible and…Dance Church. 

I’ve been dancing since I was five years old, and I’ve found that it allows a more free and creative expression than any other medium. Since I started school at Notre Dame, I haven’t had much time to dance, but I’ve missed it deeply. I knew my perfect summer wouldn’t be complete without movement, so I began researching adult dance studios in the Seattle area. I spent about five minutes on Google, searching for a class that would provide: 1) a good workout, 2) an opportunity to improvise and 3) a positive, empowering environment. 

When I came across Dance Church, its title was admittedly intimidating, but the website promised to exceed all expectations.

So, the Tuesday night after I moved in, I walked myself eight minutes down the street to Velocity Dance Center for my first class.

I entered a dimly lit room, its mirrors all covered with long black sheets, and saw people stretching in amorphous clusters around the floor. 2000s pop diva hits blared from the speakers as I found a seat and began to stretch, unaware of the journey I would soon embark on.

A few minutes later, a young man in a silver sequin tank top hopped onto a short stage in the corner. He excitedly began to explain why we had gathered, pointed out the rules of the space—do what you can, say yes to your choices and the choices of others and DON’T TALK (but you can sing)—and made his way off of the platform and into the center of the room. 

For the next hour and a half, I was in a complete space of freedom to dance my heart out, surrounded on all sides by strangers. Occasionally the instructor, Tom, offered direction for our movements, but for the most part, we just behaved as if we were all 12 years old again, dancing alone in our rooms.

We didn’t speak a single word, but I left that night feeling like I had made 80 new friends...also like I needed a shower. 

Over the next month, Dance Church became my ritual. It was my Tuesday night, my Saturday morning and sometimes my Sunday morning. Each class, a specially curated playlist brought me back to life as I danced anxiety and stress away with a new group of strangers.

I learned how to be my truest self around people who would never know me, how to just be in the world and how to trust others to respect my space. Every time I went to Dance Church, I fell more in love with it. 

Sadly, the summer had to come to an end and I moved back here to South Bend, far from Seattle and Velocity and Tom. 

As the cold has set in and everything has gotten slower, I find myself craving Dance Church more. I want to experience the warmth and freedom of its community and I want to regain the insanely empowering feeling of working hard because I love my body, not so I can love it. 

Maybe I can’t go back to Seattle right now, but I can still dance around like a crazy person. So, consider this your invitation to join in if you see me blasting Rihanna’s “You Da One” in one of the Smith Center studios anytime soon.


Images: 1 (via author), 2, 3