When I was a young child I begged my parents to let me go to ballet classes. I went on, and on, and on about it. My mum said I was the wrong shape, and sent me to Judo. True story…and one that my mum, about 32 years later has still never lived down! It comes up in conversation quite regularly, or should I say, I bring it up in conversation quite regularly? I need to get over it really. I’m not one that normally holds grudges, but this is something that has stuck with me. Thankfully we laugh about it now, but I have the last laugh really as I don’t find myself doing an Uki-goshi every day, but I do find myself dancing.
Maybe my mum was right, not about me being the wrong shape, but maybe I didn’t need ballet lessons. Life has taught me how to dance. Dancing is one of my favourite things to do. Let’s be clear here, I am no Beyonce, but that is my main point here today; you don’t have to be good at dancing, but it can make your life better, happier and much more fun.
A few months ago on Twitter, my timeline was all a flutter about No Lights, No Lycra (you can find out more about it here http://nolightsnolycra.com/) and I was intrigued. The premise is clear, it’s a case of the name tells you all you need to know; for one hour you can dance to a wide range of music, with the lights off, in near darkness wearing whatever you want. Simple.
It is a genius idea for several reasons. It is cheap. Where I go costs $5 for one hour, no membership, pay as you go, none of this signing up for life and promising your first born. The timing is perfect for me, and other mums, who I must admit seem to be the main target audience; 8pm, kids are in bed, husband is home, boom, I’m out the door. No one can see what you’re doing. If you’ve ever tried a Zumba class and found yourself three steps behind in every song, this is the thing for you. You simply dance to your own rhythm and if that so happens not to be the rhythm of the music it doesn’t matter as there is no one else to keep up with or see you. See? Genius.
So, the first time I went I coerced a friend to come with me and it was amazing. Like everything in life, you get out what you you put in, and believe me, we put a lot in that night. By the end of the hour we were dripping in sweat, hearts beating fast and full of happiness. A mix of dance, hip hop, pop, rock spanning across the decades from the 60’s to now had us breaking out all the moves. It is the perfect stress relief from everyday life.
That night I learnt a lot about my dancing style. I really am an arms dancer. No matter what music, my feet generally do the same thing, but it’s the arms that define the genre! Dance music from the early 2000s? I’m packing boxes and stacking them on shelves like nobody’s business. Chuck in some Trance and I’m waving them in the air as if I’m praying to some imaginary dance god in the sky. Put on some 90s pop, and I’m pointing to everyone in the room (that I can’t see) and waving side to side. Slow the tempo to some RnB…and I just don’t know what to do. I seriously think this is the only music I can’t dance to. A monotonous sway is about all you’ll get from me if some R Kelly comes on (showing my age there a little).
I also learnt some must haves if you are off to No Lights, No Lycra. Water. Take water. If you are going to dance your little heart out like no one is watching (because they are not) you will need some. Slippy shoes. The first week I went, my running man to Snap’s The Power was unfortunately impeded by my Converse…of course I didn’t wear Cons back in the early 90s, my Hi-Tec trainers were void of decent grip and I had the moves like the best of them. Now, the name would suggest no Lycra is needed, but I’m going to put my neck out here and say some Lyrca should be worn if you don’t want to do yourself an injury. It was a sad reminder of my age and the fact that I’ve had two children that after the first week I realised, never go to No Lights, No Lyrca without a sports bra on. How times have changed. I never needed one when I used to go clubbing in Southampton or Newcastle, but now it is a necessity for dancing. What has become of me?
So every Wednesday I toddle down to a local community hall and dance my heart out in the dark for an hour, and I love it. But I am not just a dancer in the dark.
I dance everywhere. Spoitfy was made for people like me. I am the person dancing round my kitchen while I make dinner. I am the person dancing round the living room with my kids. I am even the person dancing (and singing) in the supermarket aisle – yes, honestly. If a good tune comes on, I’m there. I appear to have a low tolerance for embarrassment, but I think that has come with age as I realise the joy that dance can bring. Joy, not only to the person dancing, but to those who are watching. More often than not you see a smile on the faces of the people who see you dancing, not an eye roll (although my four year old is beginning to perfect this move).
The best time to dance though is a wedding. I have two weddings coming up in December and I plan to dance my little socks off all night. The last wedding I went to I was nursing a three week old and we didn’t even make it to dessert of the meal. The wedding before that, although I was bridesmaid, I was 7 and a half months pregnant. Some dancing did happen, but I was tired, heavy, nauseous and drinking milk to try and curb my indigestion (that’s how I rock pregnancy!). So come December, I will be ready to kick my heels up.
So this blog post has got me thinking about the best dances of my life, and what surprised me was a few of these were a lot more low tempo than the kind of dancing I’ve been talking about here. Dancing brings people together. It creates memories, along with the music you are dancing to. After all music is just the soundtrack to our lives.
The best dances of my life (in no particular order)
- At my 21st birthday party my best friend and I whirled around the room to Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve got you babe.” We were high on life, budweisers and peach schnapps. Dressed to the nines in a working man’s club, it was one of the best parties I have ever had. We had our whole lives in front of us and the song just seemed so appropriate at the time. Looking back, we’ve done all right for ourselves, and I think it is safe to say we have both followed the paths we wanted to. That night however, I did end up sleeping underneath the dining room table in my dress so it wasn’t all plain sailing.
- Our first dance at our wedding was The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”. Chosen because of our mutual love of The Beach Boys, the words, but mainly because of its short length 2 minutes and 53 seconds. Ten years ago we danced around the dance floor to this, looking into each other’s eyes, DJ Maniac’s crazy lights flashing (he had some silly name like that!), husband praying for it to end. It’s still mentioned in the family today. He’s a big dancer after a few drinks, but dancing together in front of all our friends and family was not his favourite moment in our history. We should have practised, and then we would have realised that it’s a bit of an odd speed too; too slow to bop to, and too fast to slow dance to!
- Parish Hall Disco, 1990. On the first Friday of every month there was a disco. It was THE social event of the month if you were 13. It was there I had my first kiss while slow dancing, which really means hugging while going round in circles, to Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. It could have easily been to Phil Collins or Chris De Burgh as these were favourite “slowies” of the DJ there, so I think my musical memory got off there lightly. The kiss? It was like a washing machine. We didn’t last.
- A recent one for you. Two weeks ago my bestie and I went to see Robbie Williams in Wellington. We were six rows from the front, he came on stage to “Let Me Entertain You”, and we he said “bounce”, we bounced. Oh yes, we bounced. We felt alive. More importantly we felt like the 22 year olds we were when we first met, before husbands, before kids, and we were taken back to our old dancing days. It sparked a memory of us at The Big Day Out in 2000 in Auckland going crazy to The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. We have some special moves.
- Again at my wedding, this special, special dance, this time with my Dad. I actually don’t remember the song this time. There were more important things to remember. Dad had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before and had begun treatment. After some chemotherapy though he decided to postpone his treatment the month of our wedding. He knew how it would make him feel and he was determined to enjoy every minute of the day and night. We married in a hotel and they had a booked a room, just in case Dad needed a rest. He didn’t. He didn’t miss a single second. We took to the dance floor and he twirled and spun me over and over again. The smile on his face was amazing and I will always remember it. It made the day the most special day. I emigrated to New Zealand about 8 weeks after that, and Dad continued his treatment, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, the lot, with his next aim to get to New Zealand to see our new life there. He was a determined old bugger and he did it. I am so glad he got to see me marry someone who in so many ways is like him. He was so very happy for us. I am so glad he got to see New Zealand and understood fully why we would move to the other side of the world. I am so sad he never got to meet his beautiful granddaughters. He would have been so proud of them, of me, of us.
Life it too short. Go and dance now. Dance like nobody is watching. Dance like your life depends on it. Do it, now.