Dancing means the removal of the final inhibition; you are rarely more naked than when you dance in front of others.  You become an open book, sharing your passionate energy; revealing your personality, your desires; and, unless you dance alone, you are part of a cyclic transference of energy that is as temporarily binding as fucking – or being shot with the same bullet.

June 12th was the Sheffield dance festival, which apparently happens every year.  I’ve lived in Sheffield most my life and never heard about it.  News made its way to me yesterday; I spent the today in the city’s Peace Gardens for the duration of one of our rare sunny days.

I have never seen so many openly happy people.  With the exception of the line dancers, who looked fucking miserable every dosey-doe step, there was a self-renewing gush of joy prevalent enough to fairly replace the great water fountains, which had been switched off to provide a wide flat space for the various performers and groups.

I arrived during a performance from a whole class of under fives, who with natural school-play anxiety looked faintly shell-shocked to start with.  It seemed that as soon as they forgot that they were dancing in front of what must have been a pretty intimidating crowd of hundreds, lounging on the grass or splashing up and down the narrow aquaways, the kids realised that they were having fun.

I pointed out to someone recently that we never seem to grow out of this.  I am not a dancer.  Nor have I ever been a dancer.  I suspect I never will be.  But non-dancers go in stages of non-dancehood.

School discos.  Never has there been a place of more embarrassment, anxiety and shame than a school disco.  The most sensible of us stood timidly at the edge of the room, wondering what made us so different that we could bop like crazy little shits to Wigfield or that danced-up version of the Power Rangers theme tune.

It doesn’t change much.  We progress into stage two, which is the college/university phase of non-dancing.  You tell yourself, You really should make an effort.  Girls seem to like dancing.  I’m missing out on a trick, here.  Hop to it, mother fucker.

Fortify the nerves.  Hit the dance floor.  Oh, this is bad.  No, I’m not doing it right.  The instant the song has finished, it’s back to the side of the room to nurse your drink and wounded pride, hoping not too many people noticed your mortifying display of awkward locomotion.  Limbs shouldn’t move that way! Fuck!

I suppose later comes early middle-age, when the feeling comes that the weight and repetition of life has snuffed out that fire.  I was young, once!  Honey, let’s do that salsa class Janice and Chris go to.  Long pause.  Okay. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Give it a few months, then pretend it never happened.  Or worse, your paunchy wife really gets into it and takes a shining to that Latin dance machine who runs the class Tuesdays.

There’s nothing so awkward as a group of strangers grinding up against one another.

Beyond that, you only have OAP line-dancing lessons to look forward to, if the desire to dance (but not break a hip or work something loose) remains strong in your wrinkled, much-bruised heart.

I didn’t take a picture.

But there is something about dancing.  Even watching it was joyful and entertaining.  The geyser goes high indeed.  The pleasure of watching a father dance with his little daughter, or the simplicity of whirling skirts, is as dizzying as reconnecting with a childhood friend or saying something that makes a girl laugh.

When was the last time we were in the tangle of arms that happens in salsa (don’t let go) or kicked the air like a swing king (hey – pachuco)?

How often to we have both feet off the ground?

— db      (June 12th, 2010)