January 2014, I moved to Charlotte after a huge change in my life. I had just lost my job in Florida and I was going through a divorce as well. I was in a state of depression and not knowing who I was or where I was going. I moved here knowing maybe about 2-3 people not including my parents. I was very bored and very much alone. I decided that to start making friends in this new city I would try a few different things. I started going to trivia everything Tuesday with a group of friends. And while it was a wonderful time, there was something missing.

About two months living here, my parents invited me to go contra dancing. Contra dancing is based off of English country dancing and is a good mix of line dancing and partner dancing/waltzing. Through my dancing, I began to feel a sense of healing that I had not received before. All of a sudden I felt like I could breathe again and that I was so much more intertwined with the Charlotte Community.

I got to the point where I would dance as much as I could. Not only during contra dances, but with friends outside of contra dancing. It is always important for me to be moving and feeling the beat of the music around me. Always grooving. Always shaking. Spinning in circles. Watching the lights flicker around you. Feeling the music pulse throughout the entire room and seeing the community move as one.

Fast forward to earlier this year. I was looking for a job that was more fulfilling than the retail job that I had. In an interview for Playing for Others, Jen asked me, “So, how do you feel about dance parties?” My eyes lit up. If I had any doubts left about PFO, they were erased in that moment. I walk in on my first day being an advisor for PFO, and what’s the first thing we do? Dance party. I knew that I had found home.

One of the beliefs of PFO is that “the arts have the power to restore, heal, and connect our community.” My journey in Charlotte thus far and my relationship to dance reflects this belief in the most powerful way.

“But Malcolm,” you may be saying, “I don’t know how to dance!” Fear not, young Padawan. Dancing takes form in many different ways. I go to dance nights every week and get some of the more experienced dancers to show me new moves. Some of my great friends have taken ballet and tap and jazz and modern and are some of the best authors of movement I have ever seen. But some people just need to be that one who bobs their head in the car or does the funky chicken at weddings or the cha-cha slide at any party since the song came out in 2000. Dance doesn’t need to be structured or on a particular night or on a stage. Dancing is just moving to the beat. In whatever way you can.

During the PFO Annual Retreat, I was meeting the teens of PFO for the first time and getting to know the advisors a lot better. Every moment there was music I was bobbing my head along, to the point where I started moving to the music and my head and some of the advisors called me out on it. One of the games that we played, we had to strap a tissue box around our waist and had to shake ping pong balls out of it. Everyone doing pretty well, shaking them out in about 30 second or so. My turn and I twerked so hard that all the ping pong balls came out in 2 seconds flat. Moral of the story: dance and you will win!