Dancing like a dork in public is good for mental health

Anyone can attend “Dork Dancing” meet-ups in Denver parks twice a week to dance and bring awareness to mental health advocacy.

DENVER — Some people dance like no one is watching, but usually inside the privacy of their own homes – then there are people who bring their craziest moves to the most public places and they hope you’ll stop to watch them.

“Thank you so much everyone for being here. I so appreciate your decision to join ‘Dork Dancing,'” Ethan Levy told a crowd of more than a dozen people who gathered on a Sunday morning at Sloan’s Lake Park. “Not only are we going to share a dance, but we’re sharing this journey of mental health advocacy.”

Dork Dancing gives people the chance to get out in parks and clear their minds by dancing in the silliest, fun and carefree way they can. The premise is simple, dance like no one is watching, but do it in the middle of the park where everyone stops to look. 

Levy started the concept to raise awareness for mental health and help people cope with the challenges they face.  

“I started it in response to COVID-19 and the lockdowns. I noticed that there was a mental health crisis of sorts going on. I thought the simplicity and power of dance could be a simple idea that could help,” said Levy. “Jumping up and down feels really good. The music carries me away. Being able to share that with other people adds a new level of joy to the experience.”

Levy started “Dork Dancing” in Vietnam, then moved to Denver and brought the idea with him. His goal, much like his facial hair, is to talk about mental health and the challenges he’s faced.

“I have a half beard for the same reason I’m ‘Dork Dancing,'” said Levy. “It’s a really great way to spark conversation around mental health and then a reminder for me to not take life too seriously.”

Sarah Rose Reynolds comes to the dance party in the park every week. She said it helps with anxiety and depression.

“This is my therapy right now. It’s really helping with my confidence,” said Reynolds. “I dance really weird. But it’s OK with me because I’m dancing with other people who don’t know how to dance either.”

“Dork Dancing” allows people to be themselves and dance, regardless of their skill. It’s a time for people to disconnect and focus on having fun. 

“It feels good to move and breath and blow bubbles and jump around and meet new people in your community,” said Mandy Doria, a mental health therapist who comes to “Dork Dancing.” 

“I think we all have our own inner weirdness or dorkiness that we sometimes try and hide from other people. When we can just be who we are and recognize that we accept our full selves and other accept us, especially in spaces like this, it’s really powerful.”

The group meets on Friday’s at City Park at 5 p.m. and Sundays at Sloan’s Lake at 10 a.m. They said everyone is welcome. The wilder your moves, the more they’d like to have you join the dance party.

“If you feel any type of anxiety and discomfort, you’re already feeling and doing the right thing of how dork dancers feel when they dance,” Levy told the group. “The simplicity and power of dancing like a dork can be something really good and helpful for your mental health.”

You can learn more about “Dork Dancing” and watch the documentary about Levy’s story here. 

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