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On Dancing


Last weekend, I danced for the first time in many, many years. This is something that definitely wasn’t on my ‘list’ of experiences to do this year but it turned out to be a great unexpected one. Dancing doesn’t have entirely positive associations for me. As a small child in the 80s, I did ballet and modern dance classes. And to be honest, the overriding memory for me of those experiences is the role that those dance teachers played in planting the earliest seeds of my later body issues and disordered eating. Turns out it isn’t the greatest idea to highlight the differences between undeveloped children’s body types while they’re standing in leotards in a church hall. Crikey, who knew?!

So it didn’t take me long to give up on ballet. Later on I discovered the joys of Britpop and then cheesy pop and then dance music. I danced in student dives and London bars, with my friends, without really overthinking it. Sure, I didn’t think I was any good at dancing, but that wasn’t really the point. It was just being in the moment, being part of the vibe of whatever was going on. Which was usually flirting with whoever I had my eye on at the time, having deep and important discussions with girlfriends about whatever we were going to spend our student discount at Topshop on next and drinking Bacardi Breezers. Happy days.

And then… I don’t know. I got out of practice. Work and life and grief and heartbreak and responsibility stopped me from moving, sometimes even from feeling, and certainly from dancing. There were odd exceptions – kitchen discos with the kids in the privacy of home have always been a thing, and once or twice I probably got dragged onto a dancefloor after becoming more inebriated than planned at someone’s wedding or a works Christmas do. But in general, dancing in front of other human beings was on a sort of private mental list of Stuff I Have No Intention of Doing. I just couldn’t relax enough.

And I had no plans to change that. I didn’t want to, and I didn’t think it mattered. But then on an unusually spontaneous weekend of glamping this year, there was a silent disco in the woods. What a brilliant innovation. It was dark; there were cocktails; and there was a choice of two channels on the headphones so if you didn’t like a song you could just turn over to the other side. I realise I’m about a decade late to the party on this one – I think silent discos were new when my oldest child was little as I vaguely remember a conversation about them with a younger, childless colleague shortly after maternity leave – but it turns out this is the perfect scenario to relax me enough to actually dance again.

It felt great. I found myself questioning why I was so scared of dancing when it’s basically just moving your body, something I do all the time in the context of yoga practice, Pilates or HIIT classes or running, when I get the chance. I let go, I danced, and the universe didn’t implode. No one told me my body wasn’t right, no one laughed. And I realised once again how carrying around our insecurities in the form of these random hang-ups is only holding us back, not serving any useful purpose. It might have taken an outdoor socially-distant party in the middle of a global pandemic to get me dancing, but I don’t think I’ll leave it so long next time.

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