Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ramblings: You Should Be Dancing


I love dancing. It’s just a shame that I have very little style and elegance but I do try hard. Since I have given up drinking I haven’t been out to a club. It’s actually almost two years since I went to a nightclub, unbelievably. I’m not sure what dancing sober would be like. I can’t quite imagine it. Maybe I’d have more grace but an unfortunate increase in self awareness. I’ll perhaps try it one day.
I dance all the time at home and when I’m out in public, I just keep it very secret. I dance when I’m cooking. Well, I say cooking, microwaving or heating things would be a more appropriate term. There’s nothing like a quick two step to Roxy Music or a shimmy round to Soft Cell to make the chores go so much more quickly. I dance in secret when I’m on the bus and I suspect I’m not the only one.
It amuses me when my I-Pod plays something improbable and wholeheartedly embarrassing. I love the fact that it segues seamlessly from The Zutons to Noel Coward and Florence and the Machine to the hits of Shirley Bassey. I like the fact that I’m sitting in a smart wool coat and a suit and really wouldn’t be expected to be belting out early Madonna or the soundtrack of Bugsy Malone.
I defy anyone to listen to Shirley Bassey on their headphones and not do some sort of secret dance. Whether it’s a brief blink, a surreptitious head turn in time to a rising crescendo or a well timed leg crossing, it’s perfectly possible to dance without anyone knowing on public transport. Kate Bush needs a brief interpretative dance and the more ingenious the better. It’s hard to do a “Wuthering Heights” move without being spotted but I think I’ve carried it off well. I can even cross a road in time to Duran Duran if I put my mind to it. I often saunter into an empty lift at work and as the door closes launch into a quick box step only to resume normality as the lift doors open again. I do hope those security cameras are fakes.
I first got involved in a flash mob in August 2009. For those unfamiliar with the term I’ll give you the definition from that ever reliable tome, Wikipedia: A flash mob is where a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire or artistic expression.
Dancing is often involved, there’s been flash mobs were everyone freezes in a public place for several minutes, singing ones, ones where everyone lies down etc. Google it, there’s been loads of really good ones. They used the concept for a few TV ads in the UK too.
 I was down in Oxford attending a residential course and had been my usual manic self and spent what spare time I had frantically pacing the city trying to cram in as much as possible. I hadn’t been there before and found it particularly enchanting. It was hot and sticky and after a very lengthy walk, a tour round the botanical gardens and a quick scan of the bookshops, I crashed out on the steps of the Bodleian Library for a crafty smoke.
I find percussion quite annoying. I hate Piccadilly Circus when there’s a grubby man there banging pointlessly on a bongo. It grates my nerves somewhat and tends to make me feel a bit frenetic.  Next to where I had slumped down on the steps was a teenage boy banging a repetitive rhythm on some railing with a pen. It was fairly constant and I lit a cigarette and decided to try to ignore it. There was a girl sitting next to me yawning repeatedly and an older woman walking up and down talking loudly on a mobile phone. There were a couple rustling a bag of sweets, a man tapping a water bottle and a girl repeatedly coughing.
It dawned on me then that this was an organised event. It didn’t take much tuning in to realise that half of the people on the steps were in on it and were all playing a tuneful little symphony without instruments. The woman on her phone was repeating the same noises over and over again in time to the rhythm; the coughing was perfectly spaced as was the yawning, rustling, tapping, shaking out of newspapers and multiple other noises. It was actually quite amazing. No one acknowledged what was going on and the facial expressions were pure bored nonchalance. A couple of American tourists nearby realised what was going on and joined in with a crisp packet and gradually various people began to tentatively join in too with whatever was to hand, all pretending they were just sitting or walking about doing nothing. I hesitated for a moment then decided to give it a go and gave a sturdy performance on the glasses case. It was very amusing, lasted for ten minutes, then we all started to tune out and stop and gradually everyone all walked away as if nothing had occurred. I never did find out what it was all about or who organised it.
Deda, the dance centre, put out flyers in summer 2010 asking for people to come and join in a flash mob with a disco theme which was to be part of Derby Feste, the big annual street theatre, dance and arts weekend in Derby. I convinced my friend David to take part.
David is  slightly more sensible than me (but not much) and he turned up to fetch me for the first rehearsal wearing appropriate clothes, carrying a litre of bottled water and having spent the previous two weeks learning the steps from the instructional videos on YouTube. I was in jeans, waterless and had briefly glanced at the videos. How hard could dancing be? I do it all the time.
The rehearsal felt hideous. I couldn’t get my head round the steps, was petrified that I was in a professional dance studio with mirrors and all that and I was very much out of step with the rest of the room as I lurched about, often finding myself facing the wrong way or bumping into people. Clearly the majority of people were as sensible as David and had prepared. He let me swig his water as I sweated half my body weight away in unsuitable clothing and reassured me as I got a little teary and had a minor crisis of nerves. I set off home resolving to practice. I put in an hour a night in front of the laptop with the teaching videos and within a few days had it all down to pat. The instructors and organisers were lovely too and that helped and I attended the next rehearsal feeling like I was John Travolta. I wasn’t, of course.
The routine began spontaneously in the crowded market place, started off by the scarily good small group of professional dancers doing an elaborate routine to “Disco Inferno” and then the rest of us filtered in from the surrounding crowd where we’d been watching and pretending we didn’t know what was happening. The routine was disco based with every tacky 70s move incorporated and we danced a hilarious routine to The Bee Gees and Dizzee Rascal. It was fantastic and great fun.
Anyway, to get to my point the lovely Helen from Deda is recreating the flash mob as part of the protests about cuts to local arts funding. If a clumsy beast like me can do it then you can. It’ll be great fun. I’ll see you there. If you’re interested look on the Deda page or the Save Derby Arts page on Facebook or email the lovely Helen at: h.dawson@deda.uk.com  The flash mob is on the 23rd of November 530pm till 6pm. There will be tutorials on-line plus rehearsals at Deda too on Sunday the 13th and Sunday the 20th. It’ll be great. Honestly.

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