I used to dance – not professionally or anything, just the way we all used to dance: at school discos, in clubs, at parties, at raves. And I loved it: the entire night spent on the dance-floor, fueled by the music, the company and that sheer lust for life that propels you through your teenage years. If you’re lucky, you keep dancing into your twenties, maybe even your thirties. And then something happens: your priorities change, career and family crowd in and suddenly there’s no room for dancing. At the time, you don’t miss it: evenings and weekends are suddenly full of other stuff. You still go out, but it’s for dinner then to the cinema or the theatre and you sit there, in dark auditoriums, watching rather than doing. Maybe your foot taps along, maybe you even wiggle in your seat a little. But that’s it. Because somehow, your weekend’s entertainment has become a spectator sport. And NOW you miss it: problem is, by the time you realise you miss it, your muscles have tightened up, you’ve put on a bit of weight and the prospect of moving at anything above a snail’s pace fills you with horror. So what’s stopping us? For me it was the fear of looking stupid.
Six months ago, I took my courage in both hands and signed up to be part of Barrowland Ballet’s Intergenerational Company. I’m really enjoying our Tuesday night dance rehearsals: it’s fun, stress-free and I’m getting loads of exercise. There’s an emphasis on growth through play, allowing movements to evolve in an organic way rather than following a path set in stone. But there was a moment when I began to worry – will this ever come together as anything resembling a performance? There is a theme, but will our audience be able to pick it out or is it getting lost in the chaos? And it IS kinda chaotic – how can anyone keep track of all this? Our choreographer Natasha is there the whole time, striding around and watching us. I was never too sure what a choreographer actually DOES, you know? I assumed Natasha had worked it all out in advance and is watching to make sure we’re doing it right and that we remember our cues. And she IS doing that, obviously. But she’s also doing something else: she’s identifying movements in our duets – simple, distinctive movements that can be taken up, echoed and shared by the rest of the dancers. And when this happens, the whole sequence is transformed. Suddenly our theme is everywhere, mirrored by everyone on stage. For the first time, I have real insight into how choreography works; that whole “growth through play” thing makes sense. There have been scary moments when my resolve has been tested, but know what? I’m dancing and I’m feeling good and I’m glad I signed up. And know something else? I don’t care if I look stupid.
Photo credit: Brian Hartley
Huge thank you to Glasgow Life, The player’s of the People’s Postcode Lottery and Young Start Big Lottery for supporting this project.