It all begins with a playlist. Usually called something obnoxiously obvious like ‘dance party’, ‘move’, or even worse, ‘dance’. Over the ear headphones ready. Loose dress on. Bedroom door closed. Eyes shut. Feet bare. The ingredients that make up a solo dance party and all of its unexpected healing powers.
I think of the word dancer, as I do writer. You do not need an audience, professional certificate, published work or a choreographed routine to use the title. There’s no such thing as ‘can’t’ when it comes to dancing. It’s not Strictly, there’s no-one judging you. Dancing often comes with a whiff of insecurity and overwhelming embarrassment. Sadly, not for me. I’m a sagittarius.
Since I was a little thing, I was always asking my mum if I could go to a new dance class. I tried tap, ballet, hip-hop, pop, you name it. I went to classes at Pineapple Dance Studios, because everyone wanted to do a class at Pineapple. When I entered adulthood, I trained as a belly-dancer for fun. Although, I like to remind myself on those bleak days, that it’s a pretty solid back-up plan.
Outside of the mirrored halls of dance studios, I lived for the moments when I would dance at clubs, Notting Hill Carnival and wherever I found music. The pulse of rooms, where the walls dripped in sweat and heels stuck to sticky floors. The anticipation of not knowing when the DJ would drop the beat. Finding new pals to hold your waist. And the ones to pull away from. One hand holding on to your friend, the other holding on to a drink. There’s nothing quite like it.
Well, there is. Riding solo and having your own dance party at home. It’s a typical movie scene, where a teenage girl dances on the bed and sings into a hairbrush. Or, a thirty-something woman dancing in her oversized knickers while cleaning her apartment. It’s a thing because it really is a thing. I can’t remember how long I’ve been doing it for. I can remember when I stopped forcing myself to ‘exercise’ and instead decided to just move. To move my body for joy, for pleasure, for healing.
They don’t tell you at the beginning of a class what trauma can do to a body. Sexual trauma at that. I felt like an outsider inside of my body in HIIT classes, spinning, pilates and whatever else I pushed my body to do. The only place my body felt safe was in yoga (some). The only place my body feels free is when I’m dancing.
No routine. No rules. No pressure. No forcing. No silencing the screams in my body that don’t want to make it to 25 reps. Only freedom. The type of healing that is so profoundly somatic, there aren’t many words, even for a writer, to be able to convey. Only felt.
So I dance. Most days I dance. It feels like joy, it feels like home, it weirdly feels like church. Like I’m saying a prayer to my body. Sometimes it’s for one song. Sometimes it’s for 30 minutes. Sometimes an hour. I just dance for as long as it feels good. It’s my time to reconnect to myself, to let not only joy come in, but rage, anger, sadness and loss. It’s my time to process and feel more.
A few months ago I was feeling incredibly low, and it lasted for longer than it had before. I didn’t want to do anything. I couldn’t find my joy in any of the things I usually found it in. I didn’t want my usual walks, moments with the clouds or lunches with friends. I didn’t want anything. I didn’t even want to write and I always write. So, I danced. I got up and danced. Just for one song, then an entire playlist.
Then, I came back home.