When I was younger, all I wanted to be was a dancer.
I idolised Gregory Hines. Worshipped at the altar of Gene Kelly. Thought Savion Glover was a revelation. I thought that Fred Astaire, Freddy in particular (you can call him Freddy when you idolise him as much as I did) was spun from the silvery threads of heaven. The way they moved, the grace, the charm and style captured me in a way I couldn’t completely understand. I grew up in a gnarled and violent town somewhere in the nether regions of Wales; surely, this dancing lark was the domain of leotard wearing dames or tutu wearing Lady-boys? But there was no one as masculine in the world to me as Gene Kelly. He could have busted your head open seven times before completing his first Chaine turn. And Freddy? Ham-fisted masculinity could never have even laid a fat, clumsy finger on him. He’d have turned a lumberjack whilst simultaneously wooing his missus. They had what I lacked.
You don’t move like a god, like a spinning tipsy angel unless you know what you’re doing. You don’t enrapture the eye, the heart, the soul of excitement of an audience by tripping over your feet and wondering what the hell you’re going to do next. You own it. You act like you invented it. You know, KNOW in your heart of hearts that you are the only one who could be doing what you’re doing in that particular moment and that no one else could even dare to enter into its shadow.
That’s really why I wanted to be a dancer. To be confident. To transcend the clumsy and tiresome shackles of my own physical ineptitude, my clumsiness, my inherent Welsh awkwardness.
I wanted to be graceful, because grace denotes beauty and, in my limited, youthful mind, I was certain that those who were seen as graceful, as beautiful, KNEW that they were beautiful. Was certain that this, in turn, brought peace and from peace… confidence.
I wanted to be sexualised by an action, to become free through movement.
I believed in dance as an agent for change. I thought that you could move yourself into a feeling, a true, lasting feeling which became you, became who you are.
Maybe it does. I wouldn’t know. I never became a dancer.
In fact, I can’t dance. I love to, in my quiet moments, move like Jagger. I went through some wonderful periods in my life where I would dance, uninhibited in bars, at festivals, at concerts, in the street, completely unaware of that invisible choir, that existential jury. These moments would be punctuated by scoffs from strangers, laughter, head shakes of a non-promotional variety and general embarrassment until, inevitably, I stopped.
I don’t dance anymore. I occasionally bust an embarrassing move for the benefit of my kids future psychoanalysts, but that’s it. Truth be told, with three kids, the youngest a one year old, I’m astounded that I can make it from the lounge to the fridge and when this momentous occasion does occur, there is an avalanche of self administered high fives.
Outside of that, I hope I’ve learnt a thing or two about dance.
That it really is a thing of beauty, but that, hopefully, you can garner some sense of grace, some sense of sexuality and poise beyond it.
And, yes, even confidence.
It takes a strong person to dance.
It takes a stronger one to not inflict their dance moves on the world.