Do you remember what it was like as a very small kid, freely moving to whatever music was playing at the time, oblivious to anyone who might be in the room with you? No? I don’t either, although I am told I was very fond of an aeroplane style of dancing – arms stretched widely as I zoomed around the room to ABBA gold, during my kindergarten years.
Dancing in our household
Nowadays I watch my two children, when they think I am not looking at them, and observe their dancing styles. They are quite different. My daughter takes a bit of time to select her music, and then likes to work out her own routine, which she will practice over and over. She can dance for quite a while very happily, but tends to stop if we comment. If we speak, she becomes aware she is not alone, and starts to become a bit self conscious.
By contrast, my son likes to break out into a cool, laconic moves (as he perceives them), slightly making fun of himself in the process, possibly as a protective measure – he’ll take the mickey before anyone else can. Both kids starting to lose their ease and lack of inhibition when it comes to dancing.
As for my husband and I – well, that’s long gone. We are acutely aware of any spectators. No longer is dancing a natural response to music. I have attributed that to growing up (and being aware that we are not great at dancing).
However, I was reminded recently that it doesn’t have to be that way, even if you are a sensible and mature adult. In fact, as a sensible and mature adult, it can be even more liberating to just let loose on the dance floor. Watching someone dance last Saturday night taught me that.
Picture the scene. Seven friends out for the night. Rather than our usual dinners or drinks, we’re trying something different. We’re experiencing the funky music of the King of Soul, James Brown, via a very good tribute band, at the Flying Saucer Club (aka the Elsternwick RSL). As you do.
Having finished our dinner – and it was a very good parma, I must say – the band starts up. And we are cajoled by the lead singer to respond to the music.
‘Do you wanna get DOWN? I sez, do you want to get Down and Funk-y? Then ya gotta get yourselves Down on the Dance Floor and Dance*.’
And they launch into ‘Get up (get on up)’ and a couple of women self consciously dance together for the first song, before shimmering back to their seat. And then – no one.
The dance floor is empty. People are enjoying the music, tapping their feet and nodding their head, maybe moving a bit in their seats to the beat. But no one is venturing onto that dance floor.
And then an elderly man – maybe in his late 70s – gets up. He is quite spritely, dressed all in black, and he moves to the centre of the floor. After a brief time of working out the rhythm, he is there. He is doing his robot style dance moves, segueing into some side stepping and upper body side to side moves, and also mixing in a little bit of moon walking á la Michael Jackson. No matter that his dancing style bears no resemblance to dance moves usually associated with soul music. He was one with the music. He did not seem to be concerned that he was dancing by himself. He just wanted to dance.
And soon, others joined him. After a few more songs, the dance floor was full (including me – safety in numbers and all that). From then on, almost to the end of the night, the elderly man continued to dance, moving to his own style.
Dance like nobody is watching
I was watching, as I was dancing, struck by this man’s self confidence. I remembered a decorative sign I’d seen many times in gift stores (and, I have to admit, dismissed as a bit twee). I’m sure you’ve seen the same words on display (which are credited to Mark Twain or someone named Walter Purkey). In this context though, these words really resonated with me:
To be able to live like that – I think that’s freedom. As James Brown himself is quoted as saying:
“The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing”.
And as a man who had experienced (and created) a number of problems, he should know.
How about you? Are you someone who is able to break out and dance to your heart’s content, or like me, do you struggle with the feeling that you are being watched?
When it comes down to it, does it matter? How great would it be just to let go!
* or words to that effect. I might have made them up – I should have written them down. Whatever his actual words were, the lead singer was very good and convincing, in a ‘James Brown meets the Commitments’ type of way – as was the band as whole. Go and check them out, if you get the chance. Plus try the parma – very good. I’m now viewing RSLs in a different light. Just saying.