Self-care Journal – inspiration from the Spanish Dance way

Self-care the Spanish Dance Way

With our modern, city living, life has become faster and more intense than before. Technology accelerates expectations and responses. When were you able to ‘disconnect’ from it all and ponder on what self-care and well-being personally means to you?

It’s become more vital nowadays to feel human: to create and express, socialise and bond, play and delight, to be inspired and to inspire others.

Here are some musings from conducting our recent dance activities at the Esplanade Theatre’s What’s Your Move event.

1. Enjoy LIFE and the lighter side

Life, work, and all kinds of commitments can be overwhelming. 

It can increasingly weigh us down and burn us out. Literally. Our bodies, our minds and then our spirits.

So make pockets of time,  find ways of emerging from it to enjoy Life.

How about balancing it up with experiences, stimulating memories and moments, novel exploration – whatever uplifts you meaningfully!

Two of my students were both new into their jobs. One with a position of research, teaching at a university and another at a Big Tech company. So it got pretty intense, along with family commitments.

One had made a resolution to get away from the desk more this year. The other had to tackle some doubts along the way. 

When they made up their minds, it cleared the path for their goal.

They found time for the intense training. Congratulations, ladies,  I think making the time and commitment is a big step.

It was a joy to see their new experiences – from being in the backstage dressing rooms of the Esplanade Theatre, to the live, pulsating moments of performing on stage. 

Plus it was an occasion for friends, colleagues and family to join and celebrate their wins.

Just for that night, you could feel transformed from the ordinary!

2. Find JOY, in all you do

We have sunshine and grey days. We’re not always on a consistent high. It takes some work.

You know the feeling of starting the day on a bright note, and all situations are a breeze with our positive energy. 

On the other hand, a grumpy start clouds our outlook. Even what might ordinarily be a simple thing to settle becomes tough.

Perhaps ‘Finding Joy’ is akin to a training, the way we dancers train to get better, in a conscious way. (Hey, you can’t get better at your dance  if you don’t have awareness of what to work on!)

So training our minds and hearts to turn towards light and joy.

Gratitude is a companion for Joy.

The one with gratitude is likely to be a joyful person.

You can feel it in the energy they emanate.

3. Keep moving, Body, HEART and Mind!

This is an important one, it’s about keeping healthy –  holistically. 

Body: because after all, we have only one body to live in. 

Modern work life confines us to our seats too much. 

Our bodies were meant to move, blood is to circulate and flow to give optimum life.

The human species evolved from hunter-gatherers on the move. 

We degenerate and lose strength when we don’t use our bodies. 

So keep moving.

Mind: A moving body keeps the mind healthy too! 

I read Dr Sanjay Gupta’s book in which he researched the impact of a moving body and the conclusion was that movement keeps the mind healthy. 

To that, my proposition to you is that dance is a GREAT self-care activity! 

I surmise that dancers aren’t as likely to get dementia. 

Why? Because not only are you moving your body, your mind is engaged in many other ways like memorising sequences, analysing and feeling complex rhythms (think Spanish Dance footwork and castanets!), spatial awareness and orientation etc.

Heart – our feelings, emotions, happiness give us a sense of well-being. 

It also relates to Tip 2 Finding Joy.

Happiness means different things to different people. 

Whether it’s about relationships, family, community, hobbies, personal growth, travel (you can add on here), follow what your heart seeks.  

It will naturally lead you to a happy or happier place. 

(I don’t know of anyone who has said they seek to be unhappy!)

Only you –  and no others –  can intimately be in tune with your own heart.

To this Tip #3, let me also add the SOUL… 

4. Explore NEW things, to new worlds!

Flamenco  is my way of exploring and experiencing this world creatively. 

It’s also such a wonderful way to interact with the communities I encounter. 

When I elected Spanish as one of my language majors as a student in Australia, I didn’t know it would lead me to my first flamenco dance class.

When I quit my job after 8 years, without another job, and headed for Seville, Spain, I didn’t know it would immerse me so deeply in the next decade(s) into this vibrant, living art, its land, culture and people.

When I took the risk to present the workshop of my maestro from Seville (several years later), I didn’t know it was the first step to many other collaborations – our Asia-Pacific workshop tours interacting with wonderful flamenco communities. 

And who would have thought that the pandemic would be a catalyst for us to explore new ways of learning – via online platforms? For those who navigate the online teaching and learning comfortably, another world of possibilities has opened up to you.

It starts with a first step of exploration and curiosity. 

Then going with the flow and as one of my mentors says, “Listen to what the path is telling you’

The possibilities abound.

5. Get social. Find and build COMMUNITY

Performing arts, dance, music and creative things are great ways to socialise and find community.

When the pandemic struck and isolated us in our lockdown homes, it made people aware of how vital interaction is for humanity. The interaction stimulates, inspires,  comforts, encourages us onwards.

So Tip #5 is about getting social and finding your community. 

Although Flamenco dance is largely individual, as in it’s not a partner dance, the art of flamenco is actually highly collaborative. 

The teamwork between dancer, singer and guitarist is tight. We’re needing to be supportive and communicate with one another. 

After rehearsals, we’re likely to  hang out, chill and chat.

The Spanish way, or the Mediterranean way is a social one. 

When my morning classes end, I’d walk out into the streets of Triana, the historic flamenco neighbourhood in Seville. It would be filled with the locals at the bars, enjoying tapas and mostly drinking their Cruzcampo beer.

Once in a while, my maestro Manuel Betanzos and I would meet his maestro Manolo Marin. We’d pull up chairs and join in spontaneously.  

For me, it’s always a privilege to be able to hear both maestros converse. It’s a form of social-learning and you’d not get this in the confines of a classroom. (Add pix of Manuel, Manolo)

On weekends when I go to the local market, I would see the old folks in their well-presented attire and their coiffure. They sit on the benches along the pedestrianised main street San Jacinto, chatting with one another. Others would also bring their pets.

If you’re lucky to catch their fiestas like the famous Feria de Abril (add link), that’s quite an epitome of communal celebration!

Over the decade of immersing myself in Spain, I appreciate and absorb this sense of alegría (joy of living), flow and spontaneity. 

It’s not quite the way of life in (overly) pragmatic Singapore, so this part of my Spanish journey has had a positive influence on me.

Blessed with good weather and scrumptious food, the Spanish way of living and their work-life balance might just be the envy of many.

What would you do today?

Self-care and well-being is personal to each one of us.

So wherever you are, take a break, muse along with me or jot down  your own tips to create the environment you visualise  yourself thriving in.

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