Megan Taylor Morrison has studied local dance forms in 16 countries on six different continents. Embracing the title of dance adventurer, Morrison has also designed and co-led international dance retreats and is a certified life and business coach.
She recently released her new book Dance Adventures: True Stories About Dancing Abroad. In it, Morrison demonstrates that dance can forge connections between people from different backgrounds, as well as lead to cross-cultural experiences that promote greater understanding of another culture. Dance can also engender tremendous personal growth for travelers. Morrison corresponded with Girls That Create about her book via email.
Q&A With Megan Taylor Morrison
Have you always been dance-obsessed? What are your earliest memories of dance and the joy it brought you?
All throughout my youth, I played soccer. The only real exposure I had to dance was taking some ballet and jazz classes when I was five and learning a couple of East Coast swing dance moves from my brother. When I got to college in 2004, I decided swing dancing would be a great hobby and set out to learn it. Little did I know that Seattle had one of the best scenes in the world for Lindy Hop (the original swing dance created by members of the African American community in Harlem in the late 1920s) at that time. My first experience of true, unbridled passion was the first time I saw talented lindy hoppers social dancing at a holiday party. After the song finished, I went over to the man who had been leading and asked him to dance. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I had to learn. When the party came to an end, I asked that lead to give me private lessons once a week. Within a month, I was social dancing five or six nights a week for hours at a time.
What was the first country you vividly remember traveling to? How and when did you realize traveling brought you joy?
I was 16 when I traveled abroad for the first time. My parents and I went to England to visit my brother who was studying at Oxford. It was five hours into that transatlantic, overnight flight — when I looked out the plane window and saw the northern lights — that I became hooked on international travel. I hadn’t even arrived at my destination, and the experience already felt like a huge adventure. The next year, I convinced my parents to send me to France by myself for a language learning program. Years and years of solo travel followed.
As a group instructor, how does dance and movement benefit participants? Why is it important for the human body to move?
I facilitate groups in many different capacities. I host life and business coaching programs, teach dance and run meetings and offsites for various organizations. Whenever I sit down to plan, I think about how not just to engage people’s minds, but also their bodies. Here in the United States, we do a lot of thinking and analyzing. Yet, we are far more than just a brain. And — importantly — more messages go from our bodies to our brains than from our brains to our bodies. In other words, you can think about how to be confident, but until you’re practicing embodying confidence, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. I always find a way to encourage participants to be more embodied so that they are more likely to experience valuable changes to our behavior and positive group dynamics. Even in formal environments, I find people are always willing (and often relieved) not to be sitting down constantly. I find long periods of stillness boring and unengaging, and I know others feel the same way.
How did this book come to exist? Was it an aha moment or something that developed over a period of time?
In 2015, I founded a company called Dance Adventures, which facilitated cultural immersion through the arts. In 2018, my business partner and I decided to go in different directions and closed it down. While I think this was the best choice, I was initially heartbroken. I wanted to carry the legacy of the organization forward. When I thought about how to do this in a way that would combine my skills of writing, editing and coaching, a book seemed like the obvious choice!
How did you find/select the stories that appear in the book?
I started by reaching out to people I knew. I’d met a lot of dancers during my travels and figured they would have great stories to share. At one point, however, I realized that most of the people I knew were white. Since I wanted this book to represent a wide variety of viewpoints, I began Instagram stalking cool dancers, as well as asking my various dance and coaching contacts who I should talk to. I’m very proud of the final result. Our authors come from many different backgrounds, and the book is much better for this. It truly shows the far-reaching power of dance to spark wonder, joy and important life lessons in us all.
What do you enjoy most about editing? What’s the biggest challenge?
This project required more than just editing! I also served as a writing coach to the contributors, most of whom had never written short stories. What I loved most about the coaching and editing experience was seeing people light up when I asked the right questions. Ultimately, I wanted to help people discover the moral of their story — the essential lesson they wanted to convey. Once they figured that out, their writing process became easier and more inspiring.
The biggest challenge for this project was time. I spent more than 100 hours editing a few of the stories, and had to fit this in around my full-time work as a coach! I did this leveraging Cal Newport’s theory of deep work. He says you need to take a few hours at the time of day you feel most creative to dig into your most challenging projects. This concept allowed me to work as efficiently as possible on the project.
Dancing and travel, how do the two fit together? When traveling, why should people pay attention to the dance culture of countries they visit?
I’m a big believer in the power of play. When people play together, they connect — even if there’s a language barrier. Dance is one of the most fundamental forms of play, and it’s an almost ubiquitous part of the human experience. In the vast majority of places you travel, you will be able to find dancing. In this way, dance is a way to not just observe another culture, but to begin to take part in it. It’s a way to co-create, laugh with, and experience wonder with others. While there are many other ways to do this (such as cooking with others, making music, etc…), dance is my personal favorite.
Megan Taylor Morrison
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