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 was wearing 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. I’m at a nightclub and even my vodka-raspberry can’t help me forget my inhibitions. Nobody is really watching, but in my mind, everybody stares. I’m not one with my body. I can’t swing my hips. I edge closer to the fog machine, hoping it will cover my completely. I wish 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 stains my teeth and I hold one hand on a white desk, trying to move my body only from the waist down. I try to emulate my new moves with a new boyfriend at a party. “I’m trying to dance good, dance sexy,” I slur. A rap song comes on and I wince. I had not trained for this. I shrug and kiss him instead.
No Lights Lycra: sober and darkness and old soul music in old Converse. Finally, I’m free. I dance so hard I’m panting. Maybe it’s not on the beat – it’s certainly not sexy. My arms flay, face bizarre, out of rhythm. It’s brilliant. It’s me.
* * * *
I was going through old notebooks the other day. You know the ones – of to-do-lists and silly pictures and a poem you wrote when you were fifteen and bored on a Sunday afternoon. I also found this: a stream of consciousness list from a self-conscious party dancer when a difficult-to-dance song is played. Terrible, but, true!
1. This dance move isn’t really working for me.
2. I think it’s the music’s fault.
3. Better resort to some kind of sway-move-jump step in order to not look like I’m a dork who can’t dance, ha, ha.
4. The cute guy on my right is definitely wondering what the hell my sway-move-jump thing is.
6. Smile, pretend. Just smile, for God’s sake! (*Very strange stretched facial movement on face ensues*).
7. Look around, is there anyone here we can copy the moves of?
8. Girl has definitely noticed am copying her moves. Back to awkward sway-move-jump thing.
7. Oh-god-oh-god-oh-god! Please please someone get me out of here I can’t dance to save myself!
8. The song has finally finished! Hallelujah!
9. Silent praying. If the next song is as as bad as the last one I’m so screwed.
10. RETREAT! Retreat! Get to the bar/toilet/home as soon as possible, for the next song is WORSE!