what I learned from dancing at bar mitzvahs

bar bat mitzvah dancefloorSome of you know this about me: I used to dance at bar mitzvahs. As a job. The technical term for this kind of work is “motivational party dancer,” and involves getting a dancefloor full of teenagers to fist-pump along to pop-songs with you, alternated with bouts of shushing them up during speeches and ceremonies. (There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea.)

Last fall, I worked almost every Saturday night doing this. It was a way to make money, and was actually the first time I had made a significant amount of money from dancing. Not only that, but it was the first time in years I had put myself into a new field of work and I was terrified going to my first party. Wanting to get things right and make a good impression, I gathered my gusto and approached those 13-year-olds on the dancefloor, who were very likely to roll their eyes and turn their backs, leaving me fist-pumping solo to Katy Perry.

Needless to say, the job got old fast, and the traveling, stress, and late weekend nights became a little too much for what it was worth. I learned something very important from this experience, though, which is why I’m sharing it with you.

The job felt hellish when I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. In that culture, it was easy to feel pressured to put on a particular kind of show, with fake smiles and ass-kissing galore. Often I felt so worried about what the boss would think, that I couldn’t really be present with the kids dancing. In my uptight frenzy one evening, I forgot to pass out the glow sticks which was deemed a “party failure” by the owner of the entertainment company. Ouch.

But here’s what I also discovered: I had the most fun and made the most impact when I let my genuine self come through, in moments like these:

  • having a heart-to-heart discussion with the older cousin of a bar mitzvah boy, helping her think about alternative career options and following her passions
  • dancing freely with the 5-year-old cousins, and the 85-year-old grandparents
  • slow-dancing to Frank Sinatra with one of the shy kids in the group
  • chatting with the girls who stood hesitantly on the fringe of the dancefloor
  • connecting with the other working dancers who are doing amazing things in life outside the mitzvahs

To sum it up, I think there’s a way to sneak our real selves into even the strictest of situations, and doing so will not only feel great to you, but it will benefit others in ways you might not realize.

I’m curious to know --

What’s your equivalent to the mitzvah dance floor? Where in your life do you want to be more authentically you?

Share with me in the open space below. I’d love to know, and perhaps I can help you get there. Dance is making a comeback in my life and career, and I’ll be leading my first ever dance workshop series in January 2013. It’s called “Step into Yourself: Flashdance-Style,” a 6-week transformational dance experience with a video shoot finale. (Oh yes I did.)

If you’re ready to step in, click here to get the official details and put down your deposit. The first 5 Creative Fridays members to register get a complimentary 30-minute coaching call with me!

And if dancing is not your thing, but you’re still ready to step into yourself in creative ways, I have other less dancey opportunities for you ;) Just drop me a note and we can chat.

Remember to stay true to yourself in the meantime - on and off the dancefloor.

to fist-pumping your own way, jess