That is how I was known at school: as the dancer. Throughout my education, I’ve always thought that dancing was the only thing I was capable of doing. I attended an incredibly academic school, one that celebrates excellence in the world of academia like it’s the only thing that matters – with sports being the only exception… loosely followed by music, if one is so inclined. This isn’t a criticism, as I adored my old school and will miss many aspects of it. What I am simply trying to point out is that because of this I stood out. I wasn’t in STEM club, nor was I in the string orchestra (any longer), I had played in the Bs (that’s pre-sixth form mediocre-level) hockey and netball teams until I gave it up to further explore dance. In the first year ever since it was founded (1532), my school introduced A-Level Dance into the official curriculum (mildly exciting, yet eyebrow-raising news to the parents and staff), which for me was a God send. I have eluded in previous posts to how tough things have been as regards my mother’s battle with cancer and, it’s totally Step-Up cheesy but… without dance I doubt I would have actually graduated secondary school.
I would sometimes walk into school so early that I’d have to call the sports hall caretaker on his mobile just so he’d give me the code to get in and rehearse in the studio. Unlike when I was younger, I didn’t have a string of performances to rehearse for (except for those compulsory ones, due to my qualification, of course), I chose to dance in those early hours mainly for the sake of it. But I was fortunate enough to have wonderful teachers. First in my mother, whose enthusiasm for this elegant sport has been coursing through my own blood since before I’d ever even laid eyes on a barre. Then there was Kit, my A-Level dance teacher, with her contagious passion and her increasingly physical methods of explaining complex aspects of the art we all loved to connect with and emulate. Lastly, was Helen, whose husband owns the Dance Centre – my artistic home away from home during the blissfully naive childhood days I spent in England. I have to explain that a lot of things were fragmented once my mother got ill, and that included my dance education. Honestly, for a while there I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took to practicing at home, I particularly loved practicing turns in my kitchen, with the cool tiled floor than in my carpeted bedroom – but, really, anywhere that could take the circumference of my spinning, outstretched arms would do.
The thing about Helen: she holds several classes in contemporary dance, but the catch is it’s for adults only. You’ll find many professional classes like this, where there may call for the exploration of thought-provoking issues and the need for entangling contact work. Now that I’m eighteen I can understand this. At the time, though, I was fifteen. When I wandered into one of Helen’s classes on a breezy Saturday afternoon (I had been in the area and had chosen not to continue to stare up at the old bath house that hosted the dance events and classes as I walked on reminiscing about old times, but to venture inside) I went in expecting quicksand and fire-breathing dragons, yet she told me to watch, to see whether this would be for me. I could only watch for so long. I joined in. She let me part take despite the stares from the well-toned ex-company-principals-turned-bankers (that’s how they seemed to me) and waited until the end to let me in on the house rules. She said I was invited to participate from then on, provided I wouldn’t bring any friends. I didn’t listen to this either, but she let us stay. She helped me re-ignite my appreciation for world music (the soundtrack to my mother’s dance teacher/choreographer/performer extraordinaire days and my blissfully delighted childhood, come to think of it. And I grew up a little more in that large great hall of ‘fancy footwork’ and Susheela Raman.
Needless to say, my mother was thrilled at my rekindled relationship with dance. She continued to teach me, albeit from her mouth instead of her body and its artistry. So in honour of this, I’ve decided to never stop dancing. Sure, I may never be able to go back to performing professionally but I am determined to take classes until I drop. Fabulous trivia: Carine Roitfeld, ex-Editor-in-Chief at Vogue Paris wrote that one of her ultimate past times is dancing. She takes adult ballet classes in the heart of Paris. Reading that was truly inspiring. She is a busy woman, with a family and a killer social life, yet she still finds time to dance: once a week, a half hour or so. That’s all it takes for her to stay connected to a favourite hobby that happens to be an internationally admired and respected field of the performing arts.
As you’ve probably guessed already, I love culture. I love being a writer because it means I get to go bonkers for wonderfully inspiring things. It makes me focus on the positive. Whether I am writing about it or practicing it, I can honestly tell you guys that the experience of dance is a wonderful thing. I would encourage you to try to catch a ballet or join a Zumba class. Go with friends and fool around on the dance floor, as I did with mine – the lovely Neda and Erin, whose gorgeous dance skills have been captured by photographer Derwood Pamphilon.
I would like to know: do any of you dance? Is dance something you would like to do, or do you just prefer to watch it? I hope you guys enjoy this post, as you can probably tell it’s close to my heart. I look forward to sharing more dance images with you, and not necessarily of me… But more on that later.
Until next time.