My favorite movie of all time is Strictly Ballroom. It’s an Australian film from 1992. Quirky. Hilarious. Endearing. (For film buffs: it’s the first in the Red Curtain Trilogy from Baz Luhrmann that includes the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.)
The first time I watched it was in 2001 while I was in grad school. Someone had recommended it as metaphor for something. I’ve long-forgotten what it was. What I’ve not ever forogotten though, is the experience of watching the credits roll at the end, hitting “back” on the remote, and watching it all over again. I could not tear myself away.
Since then, I’ve probably watched it another 15–20 times. (Just ask my daughters…) It touches something deep within me — something that feels familiar and hungry and true.
Though it could be some latent desire to learn ballroom dancing, I’m pretty sure it’s courage.
I won’t spoil the story for you (in case you are now in complete suspense as to how I could possibly like a film enough to watch it this many times), but I will given you my primary takeaway:
There are times in which I must be willing to break all the rules and believe that winning is not what matters — only dancing my own steps; I have no other choice, really, than to trust my heart…and leap.
Or in this case, paso doble.
Whether on the ballroom floor or, more likely, in the warp and woof of our everyday life, we encounter profound risk. The choice is ours as to whether it will overwhelm us or whisk us straight onto the dance floor.
Risk is actually the evidence that courage is not only called for, but (already and always) ours.
Need a bit more on this?
- What if, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the risks you’re so quickly calculating in your brain, you saw them as data and proof for the significance and import of your voice, your honesty, your action?
- What if the presence of risk (and your understandable fear) is what clarifies exactly what you need to do?
- What if you don’t need to deliberate more, list out the pros and cons yet again, or cross your fingers one more time in the hopes that everything will just resolve itself?
- What if the things that feel scary and daunting and cause your heart to race are evidence that courage is within reach and within you; that you are ready?
I know. I know. I know.
It’s not quite that simple. In fact, it’s downright complicated most of the time. Which is yet another reason why I love Strictly Ballroom: in just under two hours I can feel into all the fear, all the risks AND all the triumph of courage trusted and displayed.
It’s because it’s hard, because it’s risky, that courage is needed at all.
And so we lean into and rely on some inner source of gumption; we step, speak, stand, leave, declare, name, intervene, stop, go, and yes, dance.
Believe me, I’m not trying to diminish or negate just how significant the risks and costs can be when you choose yourself, when you demonstrate courage, when you are fully sovereign. I get it. I have more stories to tell than times I’ve watched this movie where I’ve NOT trusted the courage that is mine, I’ve chosen others over myself, and I’ve chosen “safety” over self-trust.
This is what makes me think that perhaps courage is a lot like ballroom dancing.
Yes, courage requires (and is emboldened by) the small, incremental steps that I wrote about last week. But it’s also what’s required in the big moments, the huge decisions, the life-changing next steps, the things you’ve know are yours to do but that you’ve been holding back…
Listen to your heart.
Listen to and trust your wisdom.
Remember that agency is yours.
And then step onto that dance floor — even when the music stops and all hell breaks loose and it seems like it’s over (even though it’s not).
You and your courage are beautiful and glorious. We are riveted by you. Because this IS you — in all your glory.