Imagine this: you start your day feeling happy, joyful, grateful, connected to your body, and connected to your loved ones. Now take it a step further, imagine your kids start their day feeling that way too. Can you think of a more loving gift to give yourself and your family? Time to get down and boogie.
Byron Abalos and Andrea Mapili are an infectiously positive and positively adorable young married couple living in Toronto. They didn’t intend to make dancing in the morning a daily practice. They certainly didn’t intend to start a movement. But that’s exactly what’s happening.
A year ago, they were getting ready for work in the morning when Alicia Keyes’ “Wreckless Love” started playing on one of their phones. They started to dance and ended up grooving to the entire song. Then they went their separate ways for the day.
When they came back together that evening, they realized that they had both had great days. They wondered if starting their day with a dance might have improved the rest of the day. So they did it again the next morning, and had awesome days. They danced again on the third day, and every day since then, always dancing to a different song. Andrea and Byron have even named this daily routine: “Wake Up and Dance”.
When I first heard about this ritual, I knew I had to talk to these two. I love few things more than a good dance party and many of our family dance-offs happen in our kitchen before school in the morning. But every day? I wasn’t sure that would be possible with kids and hectic morning schedules, but Andrea and Byron made it sound so easy and fun. When I talked to them they made it clear that parents and their kids are getting in on the action.
Inspired by the weekly videos and playlists that Andrea and Byron began posting on social media, people have started to form a community around “Wake Up and Dance”. They have built a loyal following and everybody dances right along, suggesting songs, and sharing memories that the song choices stir up. It’s been a way for Andrea and Byron and their fellow dancers to “connect with [their] youth, with [their] nostalgia and to share with others”, because as Andrea hilariously notes, “dance isn’t just for drunk adolescents at midnight”.
The fact that it’s catching on is affirmation for Byron and Andrea that “Wake Up and Dance” is a good thing. It also confirms for the couple that “art can transform our lives every day,” and the idea that “dance is the quickest path to joy.”
Not everyone in the wake up and dance community has made it a daily practice like Byron and Andrea. Some people have started off slowly, waiting for the weekly videos to be posted to YouTube and dancing to those. Others tell the couple that they dance to part of a song because that’s all they have time for. Sometimes, if they’re running late, Andrea and Byron will themselves dance while they brush their teeth. The dancing is not meant to be a burden, it’s supposed to add to their lives, so they have a relaxed attitude about it.
In September, Andrea suffered a concussion, and while she was recovering they weren’t jumping around, but they didn’t give up on the idea of their morning dance. Some days it was just lying on their backs and moving their hands around. As Byron explained, “It’s about the intention to move. You’re giving yourself the space to think about your body and be in your body for a while.” So even if you’re not always able to go all out you can still dance, whatever that looks like for you.
On the odd day when they haven’t been able to dance in the morning, they do a wind-down dance at night because they say they “definitely feel the difference if we miss a day. We don’t connect, we don’t start off feeling happy or grateful or joyful, all those kinds of feelings have really become a part of that wake up and dance routine. Those feelings come now all the time, every morning. So when we don’t have those feelings we notice it, especially during the dreary cold months.”
To celebrate their year of joy and gratitude, at the end of January the couple hosted a “Wake Up and Dance” party one Saturday morning. They played every song they had danced to in the previous year. It was a huge success, and they were surprised by the number of families that came with their kids. The couple is working on making the “Wake Up and Dance” parties a regular event. So if you’re in Toronto, watch their Facebook page for details. Everyone is invited to join them for their next party. If you’re outside of Toronto you can follow along on social media (Instagram, YouTube) — Andrea and Byron take song requests — and perhaps even organize a “Wake Up and Dance” party in your own city or town.
We already know that moving in the morning improves kids’ test scores and helps them academically and behaviourally during the school day. Moving can mean walking or biking to school or, simply, dancing. Because even though there are barriers that make it challenging for some of us to use active transportation in the morning, very few of us can’t find three-and-a-half minutes to move our bodies. For tips on how to make this new habit stick, check out this guest post from Andrea herself.
And if you do wake up and dance with your kids, please post your pictures on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and use the hashtag #wakeupanddance. We want to see your moves and hear your stories.
Images courtesy Mona Dehghan Kiani