A few nights ago there was an event at my daughters’ primary school. A bush band came to play, the kids danced and sang all day, and then put on a performance for the parents at night. It was one of those events where the parents were dragged up to dance periodically, in a hall that was far too small for any such shenanigans, and it was a wonderful, joyful night.
For each song a handful of kids had a chance in front of the microphone. One child in particular stood in front of that microphone, incandescent with pride and radiant with joy, and she belted out that song as though her life depended on it. It was loud, it was ecstatic, and it was completely tuneless. When she was done she was wildly applauded, and I have no doubt that girl went to bed exhausted but happy at the end of the night.
No-one had told her that she can’t sing. So she sang. And she loved it. And the audience applauded, most of them smiling, and the night went on all the better for her enthusiasm.
I’m not sure why, but as we get older many of us become aware that we can’t sing, we can’t dance, and we become embarrassed and ashamed. I’m lucky enough (or perhaps deluded enough) to believe that I can still sing, but I am quite convinced that I can’t dance. Which is a shame, because I love music, and I can’t help bopping to it. I love to dance, but I am painfully aware that I am clumsy, uncoordinated, and unconventional on the dance floor (as I am elsewhere, come to think of it).
So anywhere there is dancing I go armed with my shield. “I don’t dance,”, I state, as though it’s an incontrovertible law of physics. “You go on. Have fun. I’ll watch.” And I sit there, unobtrusively bopping in my seat, and try not to wish I was up there dancing with everyone else.
I don’t mind ballroom dancing quite so much, given a strong and patient partner who will show me what to do, and guide my body effectively, although a youth of being unusually tall at dancing classes where there were never enough boys has left me with a regrettable tendency to lead. But dancing to modern music – the music that I love, whose rhythms I can’t help moving to – terrifies me, lest I reveal my gaucheness to the world.
Because I believe I can’t dance. I love that saying that does the rounds of facebook periodically – “Dance like nobody’s watching” – but I can’t bring myself to do it. Because I believe I can’t dance.
I could make all kinds of excuses – I was teased as a child, I am naturally clumsy, I never learnt how to dance – all of which are true, none of which are good reasons for not dancing. But I believe I can’t dance.
Which is a real shame. Because I love to dance.