There are two types of people in this world – those who can dance and me. If Michael Flatley is ‘The Lord of the Dance’, I’d describe myself something more like ‘The Undertaker of the Dance’ or, possibly, ‘The Night Cart Man of the Disco’. Suffice to say that I have a surplus of left feet and not so much a sense of rhythm a nonsense of rhythm. I am both a sight to behold and an object to be avoided, as my body cavorts and lurches to the music. If all that sounds like an exaggeration, I can only say this: had I danced at my wedding, it would have been a far shorter marriage.
But despite the fact that I’m rhythmically deprived, there’s still a lot of dancing in my life. Mostly it comes from a nine year old. For reasons known only to the Internet, he’s taken to ‘twerking’ when I least expect it. Not that I want to be critical of a nine-year-old child, but it’s horrifically off-putting. For those unfamiliar with this particular brand of dance, ‘twerking’ involves suggestive thrusting whilst in a low squatting position. It’s not something you expect when you’re changing rooms for a cup of tea.
I suspect it’s something they do at school. Not as a stand-alone subject, but in the playground to amuse each other. When I was that age, such activities generally centered around yo-yos. It was a safer, more wholesome era. Things have changed. In Flatley terms, this child is ‘The Lord of the Twerk’, prone to spontaneous outbursts of ‘River Twerking’ without so much as a note of music to warn bystanders.
At first, I assumed that this was his chosen form of self-expression. I smiled politely and mumbled some vague words of encouragement before leaving the room as quickly as humanly possible. Soon, it became apparent that it was a test of some kind; one in which my reaction became the basis for whether I was to be accepted or not. He was winding me up like a toy. It wasn’t just the twerking that upset me. For, in truth, I have been traumatized by dance throughout my life.
My father cannot dance. Luckily, it’s something that’s rarely required of him. He had an office job and was seldom expected to communicate his feelings through the medium of dance when there was a perfectly fine typewriter within spitting distance. Occasionally, though, he’d take temporary leave of his senses and bust out a couple of moves to terrify his children. He didn’t twerk (thank goodness for small mercies); rather, he grimaced and bent his arms at the elbows in time as though he was manning an invisible water pump whilst leaning to one side. It was awful. The kind of thing that would make Michael Flatley throw up, before starting to cry.
My brother did his best to overcome what limited natural ability had been granted to him by way of genetics with huge doses of enthusiasm. And he specialized. Specifically, my brother mastered the gentle art of ‘the disco pistol’; a move he’d use to wow onlookers at the local pub on a Friday evening. Unlike twerking, ‘the disco pistol’ has the advantage of having holsters so they can be put away at the appropriate moment.
I, on the other hand, was a tragic case. Instead of being fueled by enthusiasm, my dancing style was marred by self-delusion. I was of the unshakeable belief that because I could play musical instruments, I must be a fabulous dancer. I have since seen video footage that categorically demonstrates that my confidence was tragically misplaced. I could not dance. In fact, I couldn’t stand within ten feet of a dance floor without tripping over myself.
This is where is gets a little tragic. Because I was in a band and, in particular, was the singer in that band, I had assumed dancing was one of my key performance indicators. I shook not only my groove thing, but my entire body as though my soul was trying to break free of its earthly cage. It wasn’t pretty. It was, in fact, downright horrifying. I’d forgotten precisely how horrifying it was until relatively recently when I sat down with my partner to watch one of my early musical performances at the Cheltenham Youth night.
There’s only one thing to do to combat the nine year old. Next time he twerks, I’m going to sit him down and force him to watch a video of one of my early dance performances. Maybe then he’ll appreciate how damaging the power of dance can be when not used responsibly. One look at my flailing teenage self and I’m semi-confident he’ll swear off twerking for life.
As for me, I have no plans to return to the dance floor. I have, however, started to see twerking everywhere. It’s as though I’m being stalked. Just last week, we were walking through a department store when I spotted a mannequin, hunched over and in a squatting position. No one else seemed to notice, but I could not let it pass by unchallenged. Without warning, I began my own primitive form of twerking. Seeking to dance it into submission, I believe I was starting to prevail before the mannequin began getting smaller and smaller as security dragged me away. It’s for the best.