For about 26-and–three-quarter years, I’ve suspected that, deep down inside of me, buried somewhere between the melanzane parmigiana and inability to communicate without sarcasm and inappropriate sexual innuendo, is a dancer.
This is based on two known truths:
1. When I am sick I watch the Step Up movies on repeat
2. I have an impressively massive arse, ipso facto can Shakira the SHIT out of anything with a dirty beat, irrespective of number of iced Bailey’s cocktails consumed.
And before we get to my point, because I have one- probably- I don’t mean massive arse in that self-depreciating way most of your girlfriends in the Topshop changing rooms mean it. I’m not sad about it, or in need of sympathy. In fact, it’s quite the point of pride. I’ve got legit back. Gluteus maximus for days. Bum enough for a one-night stand with The Artist to become a three-month fling because, ‘This,’ he’d say, grabbing handfuls. ‘I need more of this.’
My behind is so round and plentiful that The Italian whispered that is was soft, like a big pillow.
One of my proudest derriere moments was once having a girl pull me aside in the middle of a teacher training session that I was leading to say that in Lycra-based jeans she couldn’t ‘stop staring at that Joan-Fucking-Holloway ass.’ She was from Brooklyn, New York, so it wasn’t weird that she added, ‘Uh, day-um babygirl. You own it.’
It made me want to do kissing her on the mouth except I know who she had hooked up with the night before and ewwww. No.
I’m a size 14, have a weak chin, and can’t wear anything that doesn’t have sleeves. But goddamn it, if you’ve gotta celebrate what you’ve got then OH HEY, BIG BOOTY, BIG BOOTY, BIG BOOTY.
Thus, I’ve always figured I was simply a professional dance class away from like, being Beyoncé.
Since arriving in London for this whole Life from Scratch thing I’ve promised myself that every single creative inclination that I’ve been wanting to fulfil, no matter how slight, I’d indulge. All the books, all the writing, all the theatre, all the acting, all the photograph-taking- and all the dancing, apparently.
The class I wanted to do was 2p.m., Sunday. I wake up every Sunday and ask myself, is today the day? Every Sunday I decide, no. The Times’ supplements won’t read themselves. Also: I was scared.
But not last Sunday. Last Sunday was game. on. It was a day like any other… UNTIL IT WASN’T.
I dressed in my best yeah, I totally go to studios all the time outfit, a combination of a tee-shirt with rolled up sleeves and fingerless gloves because quite obviously, that is what all dancers must wear.
I put on my headphones and skipped to the beat of Missy Eliot as I headed out into the cold. I did a nonchalant nod to the receptionist as I arrived, pulling wires out of my ears to hear the thumping beats of Britney’s I’m a Slave- easily the best pop song of 2001, I’m sure we’re all agreed- fuelling the class before mine. I had this overwhelming feeling of wow. Yes. I’m home.
Nine minutes and three isolated step sequences into my class and I was so not home.
It wasn’t that I was bad, per se, I just… I was bad. The skinny black guy taking the class was all SMILE WITH YOUR EYES, SMIZE, and THIS IS THE PART TO JUST SMOULDER, TAKE IT SLOW AND RELEASE THAT SEXUALITY and UH! YES! POP IT LIKE IT’S HOT, LADIES! And meanwhile I was like, yeah, that’s fun and all, but can we just skip where you are so surprised I’ve never taken a professional class before that you stop the music and call in everyone from the waiting room to marvel at my dancing prowess?
‘Cept, I didn’t have any dancing prowess. I was worried my glasses were going to fall off. I couldn’t remember any of the steps. He went too fast. Everyone else was so serious about it. The most awkward moment of my life was when he made us divide into groups to perform to the others in the class and I just… made it up. Didn’t so the routine at all. Clicked and kicked and turned in the absolute wrong places. Didn’t have a clue. None.
And as I caught sight of myself in the mirror, mid-routine, I stopped. I stopped, and I moved off to the side, and I watched the girls way more committed to smizing than I ever could be, and I understood. I recognised, in that moment, something that I was not at all prepared for, but that was obvious to anyone who can clap on the off-beat.
I’m not, it seems, a dancer. Not one little bit.
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