Who’d have thought it! Twizzles! Yep, me and Nicola going to Twizzles dance studio one a week squeezed between our drum journey circles. It certainly took me by surprise.
Stepping our way around a dance floor where even I considerably lowered the average age of the gathered folk was not my dream way to spend an evening. Nicola was bought in from the beginning and came back from her solo lessons with tales of new friends, new agility and a new dance partner. Now, how much Eddie had to do with my deciding to take up the class is a moot point, but sign up I did. And it seems my reasons for dancing were quite worthy after all. We had a community to weave together, I had been welcomed into Nicola’s family and we wanted to integrate deeper. Mr and Mrs Riley are dancers, so what better way to get to know her parents than on the dance floor! Too, Nicola and I have a busy work life and doing something physical together would be fun. Also, am I getting to that age where I need to flex my mental ability in order to keep it keen?
A tea-dance with the in-laws.
The months rolled by and I continued to cajole my two left feet in the desired direction with a very forgiving Nicola in tow until we had to step up our game. We had an invite. A tea dance with the in-laws. I would be expected to dance in a community centre with a group of aging folk I’d never met before. This was when it all began to come together, and I’m not talking about my dance steps.
Nervously I crept across the dance floor which was bordered by folk wearing their Sunday best and wide smiles, and headed to a dark corner in the hope I’d be forgotten. But of course that wasn’t going to happen. The music began and the wooden floor soon resounded to the steady beat of feet. Feet doing the same thing, more or less. Feet that flowed across the boards with camaraderie and a deep sense of community. Nicola and I found our swing and the days of anxiously watching ourselves on phone videos, repeatedly making the same mistakes (mine) and finally feeling that sense of accomplishment when somehow it works all paid off and we were in the circle.
A sense of ritual.
There was a terrific sense of ritual here. The rhythmic sway of bodies, the twirl of shoulders, swirl of dresses and manly marches. There was a friendship buzz that was unbounded by age, status or voting decisions – dancing was the glue of clan. I got it at last! Here were mature ladies and gentlemen exercising, having fun, using their brains and at the same time forging bonds, casting a circle with their bodies and reliving age-old ceremonies.
My footwork was not by any means fancy, more of a measured walk with me counting time (sometimes outloud!) as I stiffly followed the leaders however I was embraced by all. Nicola floated serenely, flowing sexily from sequence to sequence whilst trying to avoid my clumping huge feet. I committed again to mastering this, and becoming the dance partner who could fulfil this desire of my beloved.
During that long weekend in Kent we attended 3 dances, all in small halls with Nicola always halving the average age but it became fun. There was a depth of understanding and tolerance that I had not often witnessed anywhere. To be honest it was beyond tolerance, my dancing fails were embraced by the clan as they worked hard to right my steps with patient smiles and encouraging words.
I came to see that we, as a world, miss dance. We are all the worse for no longer doing it often. I remember in my christian days one of my favourite films was Footloose which told the story of a religiously repressed young man who discovered dance and stood against the patriarchal regime of his father’s laws and well, danced. Folk I knew, in the same religious fold as me, did not dance. We were told it would lead to all manner of sins of the flesh. Touching each other! Swaying rhythmically to music. Touching! Getting excited, having fun. Finding joy. Being the authors and curators of our own pleasures? Could that be the way to freedom, to the beauty that is wildness of spirit?
As the music faded and the cakes had been eaten I watched the dance tribe remake their bonds ever so subconsciously. Here were folk who would not harm each other. They wouldn’t intentionally tread on each others’ toes. This was a clan of people who were actually ‘being’ something and actively wanted to help others become better. I thought to myself that if we all danced, if every few streets had it’s own dance floor, then maybe community would find it’s dancing feet again and help weave society back together from the dislocated strangers we have become.
Back home Nicola and I decided to hunt down some local regular dance events and we weren’t to be disappointed. They’re everywhere. So, one Sunday evening we headed to a working men’s club on the urban outskirts of Preston. We walked through the doors into a bar where the air was blue with expletives as the locals watched football on a big screen and downed their pints of disillusion. Once past the beer stained carpets and tainted air we pushed through double doors into a world of genteel serenity. Friends held each other close, couples danced with knowing smiles and flasks of tea dressed the tired tables.
We immersed in a few hours of elegant waltzes, strident quicksteps and challenging cha chas. We could only watch as regulars burned the floor with a hyper sensual Argentinian stroll, tangoed with style and foxtrotted through the veils of realities. Maybe dance is one of the secrets of life. Perhaps touch, play, music and rhythm will bring us home. Folk who dance regularly have that wry smile of someone who knows something, who’s life is flowing, who’s relationship is knitted more closely with those who matter. And what’s more those same folk have a 75% less chance of falling prey to dementia, their hearts beat more steadily and limbs flex longer.
Nicola and I are keen to encourage the five ‘c’s in our Buzzard community.
Creativity – Community – Connection – Ceremony – Celebration. Dancing ticks all those boxes!