Confession: I’m not a very confident dancer.
Well, now that is. As a four year old I put on dancing performances for every guest that entered our home. I was a ballerina, an acrobat, a tap-dancer. I dressed up as a skater dude and waved my air about to Sk8ter Boi like I was actually going to be onstage with Avril Lavigne. I entertained the waiting crowd at Luna Park one hot summer day by climbing onto a little ledge and showing off my personal rendition of I’m a little tea-pot, moves and all. My aunt says that I gained quite an applause and was very proud indeed.
And then I lost my dancing groove.
You think that kids don’t remember the stuff that happens to them. But they do. Sometimes, they remember it forever.
At the grade 3/4 camp disco I had just turned ten years old and wore my new pink frilly skirt with ballet flats and stick-on earrings. A classmate pushed through the crowd, yelled over the music. Everybody heard. “You’re really bad at dancing.” I remember her voice being so serious. Like she was declaring I was to go to jail for the most illegal of activities. Really bad.
It doesn’t matter, I remember telling myself. Keep going. She’ll go away.
I withdrew from the disco and drank warm lemonade.
In highschool, we sat and ate peanut butter sandwiches on the cool cement of undercover. “Simone, your dancing at the birthday last weekend was hilarious,” my friend giggled. She stood up, waving her arms about. Girlish laughter erupted. A glint her eye told me she wasn’t just trying to be funny.
18 years old at my first nightclub. Even my vodka-raspberry couldn’t help me forget my inhibitions. Nobody was really watching, but in my mind, everybody stared. I’m couldn’t become one with my body. I couldn’t swing my hips. I edged closer to the fog machine, hoping it will cover me completely. I wished I could go back to my 5 year old self, be her for a day. Free, unafraid, not the slightest bit self-conscious.
New girlfriends intervene. “We’ll teach you the hip pop!” Red wine stained my teeth and I held one hand on a white desk, trying to move my body only from the waist down. I tried to emulate my new moves with a new boyfriend at a party the following weekend. “I’m trying to dance good, dance sexy,” I slur to him. A rap song comes on and I wince. I had not trained for this. I shrugged and kissed him instead.
“You’re coming,” says my oldest friend, “no excuses.” ‘No Lights Lycra’ is at a random Church on the Northside across the river. It takes minutes for our eyes to adjust to the darkness of the cold hall. We’re sober and wearing leggings and old Converse. The music starts off as Soul and becomes Jazz and then it doesn’t matter what it is, I’m one with the beat, and finally, I’m free. I dance so hard I’m panting. Maybe it’s not the right kind of dancing – it’s certainly not sexy. My arms flay, face bizarre, out of rhythm. I’m dancing and it’s brilliant. It’s me.