How to dance like nobody’s watching

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

You just have to start moving.

“Dance like nobody’s watching.”

It sounds simple and easy to do, at least in theory. Because who cares what other people think? Just let go, move to the beat (so to speak), and leave them to deal with it.

(I’ve actually written a post about this before: Read it here. I think I’m revisiting the topic because I need someone to tell me to go for it, to not hold back… and that everything’s going to be okay. It’s a sign and a wakeup call. I’m pretty sure I’ll have another post like this in the future.)

But what if you “dance” terribly and get easily embarrassed, though? 😬 What if it’s not “you”? What if it’s something that feels awkward to you?

“I suppose this quote is about being free in your body, and not being self-conscious,” muses Bernice Lee, a dance artist, choreographer, theatre performer, teacher and writer based in Singapore.

Bernice Lee
Go big or go home? Bernice doesn't do things halfway

“These were things I felt especially strongly about when I was younger, and what motivated me to care about dance as a practice and an art form.”

So what happened? 🙂 Well, she plodded on. “Dancing was always important for my sense of self. I do it primarily for myself, for my sense of freedom and joy, to just be present, to learn something and to create something,” she answers.

“I find that dancing has helped me grow beyond self-awareness, into other-awareness – that by learning to feel more grounded within my body, I’ve also been able to pay better attention to the people and situations around me.”

That’s good to hear – and a good example for us to follow, too.

She does have this to say about the above quote, however. “This quote also signals that oftentimes dancing is about what the dancer looks like – that dancing is something people look at,” she ponders.

“So in a sense, for me, when I teach and create and perform, ‘Dance like everybody’s looking’ is also useful. I think we can be just as un-self-conscious and free if everybody’s looking. When everybody’s looking, all that is different is that our attention of self and other is heightened.”

Besides, “I went to look up the origins of this well-known quote, and learnt that it’s often misattributed – and that it most probably surfaced in 1987 when the songwriters Richard Leigh and Susanna Clark wrote in in ‘Come From The Heart’,” she reveals.

“I thought it was quite telling that a quote so well-known can have its origins be so unknown. It’s quite easy to forget that things don’t just appear out of thin air? Someone had to come up with it.”

It all fits

Bernice has been tapping into her talent, positive energy, and love of dance ever since, exploring different means of self-expression at various venues.

She is the co-director of Derring-Do Dance, an arts company in Singapore that runs dance and body-based programmes for diverse children, families and the wider public. Meanwhile, Rolypoly Family, a division of Derring-Do Dance, creates dance experiences from their artists’ intuitive and responsive movement practices.

And together with Chong Gua Khee, Bernice also co-directed the performance project Tactility Studies, wherein they encourage participants to “open up their bodies” and let go through workshops and performances.

Audiences find themselves entranced when they witness the many ways in which Bernice improvises and expresses her emotions and messages. Just check out her Instagram: She looks so free and at ease with herself, and how she moves. It’s cool to see. 👏

The “un-self-conscious” approach worked to her advantage. “I think at some point as a dancer I became less concerned about expressing myself, and more interested in all the things that my body can experience, feel, create. Self-expression became the wonderful byproduct of artistic exploration. When dancing and rehearsing, it’s all about holding on to specific feelings/sensations/intentions, and trying to rediscover them each day.”

Can she give us some tips then, on how to not be so self-conscious and self-critical about our movements, our bodies, and our facial expressions – and to an extent our perspectives and perceptions of ourselves, and the people and things around us? (Whew. That was long.)

#1 It’s okay to be self-conscious and self-critical