Today, I have a roaring headache. I have employed a Blitz mentality since it arrived. The spirit of wartime, when we made do and carried on.

This time, this head will not break me. I shall simply carry on regardless. No pokey Anderson shelter for me: I’m off down the tube station to sing bawdy songs with dockers.

That’s a potent image, those wartime civilians, packed into the underground stations, singing to keep their spirits up.

Is there anyone in the world for whom music is not important? For whom a song has not arrived at a moment of need to lift us up where we belonged?

I’ve sung in choirs and choruses and karaokes; I’ve listened in concert halls and cellars and huge stadia; I’ve played in recitals and rock concerts and even religious services.

But nothing gives me quite so much pleasure as to dance.

I’m not talking about qualified ballet or tap or ballroom, but the involuntary, Woodstock-happy, foot-kicking party moves which jump past our thinking brains, short-synapsing all the way to our rhythmic roots.

It needn’t even be great music. My husband shakes his head in despair over my choices, which are woefully out of date. Even when they were current they were not always the most well thought of in our culturally rich circles.

But when certain songs come on I simply can’t stay still. I have to move. And that can be quite an ambitious project.

I have never been what you call spatially aware. While I can match anyone in a dance off, I need to have six clear feet around me to avoid injuring anyone.

While dancing on ice a long long time ago, I threw my arms out in a gesture of total, joyous abandon and felled a speed skater attempting a 40 mph nifty overtaking move to my right.

Neither of us held onto our street cred that night.

When it comes to my body’s capabilities, I have the rhythm and I have the moves, but my perception of what my body is capable of can be flawed.

It’s nothing to do with my age, or with how much I have drunk that evening. At a Christmas party in my 24th year I boogied the night away with journalist friends.

Festive celebrations held by the newspaper on which Phil and I trained were notorious. We were rarely asked back to the same place twice. Raucous and joyous, they probed the bounds of respectability year after year.

I draw your attention to about 11pm on the night in question, when a fabulous 60s number came on. There was nothing for it: handbags on the floor, and twist.

When you watch films of this era their dance floors always seem drenched in sullen, knowing sophistication. That was the effect I was going for: I wiped the grin off my face, got the moves just right, and began to descend, like a corkscrew barstool.

No-one tells you where to stop, do they? When do you conclude that rocking descent and rise slowly back to position A, upright?

I just kept on going, right up to the moment when I rocked onto my bottom, and found myself sitting down unceremoniously in the middle of that swinging dance floor.

But I was happy.

I once had a friend called Julia. I have long since lost touch with her, and she would no doubt be surprised to learn that she was one of the great influences of my life.

Julia was a student of nursing at my university, and we lived in the same house for two years. She was one of life’s truly good people, while having a wicked earthy streak which anchored her firmly in the hearts of all who knew her.

Julia, too, loved to boogie. And she had a philosophy on this subject which has always stayed with me: you don’t dance for other people, she said. You dance for yourself.

Thus, if someone laughs, or points, or chooses to mock, that is their problem: mainly because they are choosing this pastime over the joyous activity of dancing the night away themselves.

As for us, we shall dance, with abandon.

I can still see her dancing at some medics ball, an expression of pure, wicked joy on her angelic homely face.

Is it seemly to bring in Dionysus here? He embodied so much for the Greeks, this  artistic god of wine, and theatre, and fertility. He symbolises a choice to lose control, to send dignity to the winds, to be ecstatic. And his followers used to dance.

How much control should we lose? The Dionysians danced themselves into a state of ecstasy beyond themselves. By all accounts, those in the Greek cult lost sight of themselves competely to a greater force. They would work themselves into a state of trance, lost to the world of reason.

Wise men ever since have debated the wisdom of losing oneself so completely.

It’s the Red Shoes debate, isn’t it? Vicky Page, played by Moira Shearer, can attain absolute excellence and perfection as a ballet dancer in the 1948 film, itself based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale.

But she must lose her whole self to her art. Boris Lermontov (played by Anton Walbrook) is the impressario of her company.

He tells her, as she chooses dancing over life: “Sorrow will pass, believe me. Life is so unimportant. And from now onwards, you will dance like nobody ever before.”

Chilling, that.

Artists through the ages have weighed up the same decisions. We’ll never know quite who gave their soul to Dionysus, and who didn’t. We could hazard a guess: I’d say Stravinsky lost sight of himself completely, but Bach stayed in control of the sublime notes he had created.

Maybe it was the  twenty children that did it.

To everything there is a season: a time to control the creativity that trickles through your fingers: and a time to abandon oneself joyfully to a good dance.

I’m off to get the ipod.


16 thoughts on “Boogie

  1. I love the music and the dance! It always fills a room with fun and laughter! Unless you are a dying swan of course!

  2. I can still dance, even in the wheelchair. My dh wasn’t sure he believed me at first, but he has learned. Not even wheels stop a girl from a dance when she wants to 🙂

    Poor ol’ Stravinsky, he was just a bit too….Russian, in the Tolstoy sense and not Russian in the old Jewish sense, or even Dostoyevsky’s dark humour. Sorry, rambling.

    1. Not at all, as I was saying earlier today, a woman after my own heart, you’ll find a lot of us range round the houses and arrive at some unexpected conclusions here!

      Lovely to have a visit, mum6kids, I’m already a HUGE fan.

  3. I do like your Julia’s philosophy, but still, my dancing is a dreadful thing to inflict on viewers; makes my family very cross and ashamed when I do.

    1. I make my family ashamed all the time, it’s traditional. It comes in especially useful when Felix is being over-extrovert in front of his friends (its always the girls). I just tell him that if he doesn’t control himself I will become embarrassing. He knows precisely what I mean and quietens immediately.

      I believe a camping trip is taking everyone elsewhere this weekend..while the cat’s away….

      And I’m sure Diski’s ears would help out.

  4. Oh, I LOVE this! Thanks, Kate, for bringing back floods of memories of total abandon! I can completely relate to falling down and knocking people over too. Like learning to snow ski . . . some of life’s greatest laughs!

    P.S. Sorry for your children 🙂

    1. Thanks Naomi…..glad you, too have experienced all the highs and lows of total abandon, means I’m not all alone out there on the dance floor! Yes, the kids do have to put up with rather a lot…..:-D

  5. BTW, how synchronised is this blogosphere? ‘To everything there is a season’ inspired my post this morning…could definitely dance to that too, talk about outmoded 🙂

  6. Ooh! Dance with abandon. Is there any other way? Marvelous laugh out loud read 😀

    I danced, my mother said, before I walked. Not an easy thing to do, you must admit. Dancing is in the blood. For my family: sedate ballroom moves – boy, could my parents tango. With me: anything I can move to, which is why I only play non dancing-type music while I write – I have enough trouble hitting the right keys as it is.

    1. Tango! The co-ordination required for that makes my head spin! Wonderful to hear you, too, love a good dance, Liz. I am also unable to write while music is on. My brain is totally taken over by notes and there is not room for anything else. I do quite like silence too.

  7. When I grow up, I want to a) sing at the Metropolitan Opera (or with a good Gilbert and Sullivan company) and b) learn to belly dance. Both with complete abandon. And complete control. Very little to ask, really.

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