Yes, I admit it. I watch Dancing With The Stars. I could blame my wife, of course, and claim that I only watch because she does. But the truth is, I look forward to each episode as much as any show on TV. I thrill to the music, the showmanship and, yes, the dancing of the professionals and the “stars” alike.
As an actor with some stage dancing in my past, I am fully aware that, as Andy Grammer remarked this season, “dancing is hard.” As any weekend ballroom warrior can attest, learning the intricacies of the tango, the waltz, the jive and the myriad of other styles is challenging enough. Doing it live in front of an audience and being judged on every aspect of your performance is quite another matter entirely.
Which is why I am in absolutely awe of Bindi Irwin. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of inspirational performances from seasons past. Amy Purdy and Noah Galloway overcame great physical challenges, while other stars told of their battles with bulimia, multiple sclerosis, brain trauma and drug addiction through their performances in the ballroom.
Bindi, too, has had challenges to overcome. Most prominently, the death of her father Steve Irwin when she was just eight years old. And her dance in tribute to him was as emotional and powerful as you would expect.
But that’s not what makes her so compelling. There is, for lack of a better way to put it, a pure light about her. She radiates joy and it is infectious. Buddhists teach that happiness is within all of us, attainable by living a mindful and compassionate life. At an age when most people are understandably directionless, yet obsessed with their self image, Bindi is already living proof of the difference altruism and an “attitude of gratitude” can make.
She is also, perhaps, the hardest working and most determined teenager I have ever seen. While it was perhaps a bit TMI, that her toenails are falling off and the soles of her feet are covered in blisters is the mark of a young woman who knows that there is no substitute for simply outworking everyone else.
That she seems to exude all of this so effortlessly is, to me, a unique sort of zen and a remarkably enlightened perspective for someone so young. That she provides such an example only serves to remind me that age and wisdom are not one and the same.
Indeed, there are plenty of people living in ways that we can and should aspire to emulate, be it a young activist like Malala Yousafzai or an elder statesman like Kofi Annan. And yes, Bindi is, as some would derisively note, a mere “celebrity.” She’s not taking bullets or leading hunger strikes.
But that’s okay. Not every inspiration needs to be a revolutionary. In fact, sometimes the more, well, normal they seem, the easier it is to see ourselves in their shoes and draw our inspiration that way.
So it is with appreciation for the irony that she is but half my age when I say that I aspire to be like Bindi Irwin when I grow up.