Dancing is very important and interesting.
I don’t mean the sort of dancing with a partner or the sort of dancing that says look at me I’m so cool. I mean the dancing that really connects you directly with the music – preferably being played live.
About once a year I find myself having a really good dance and this evening was one of those occasions. It is really one of the best natural highs that there is. Albeit that it depends on a group of people with some musical skills to perform for you. And they are performing just for you. There really is just the music flowing through you and your body responding to it quite effortlessly – although I feel a bit tired out now and may well ache in surprising places in the morning.
I notice that often these occasions are with relatively sparsely attended gigs – so there is plenty of space – and I may be there on my own so it is easier to let go and not care about other people. Sometimes they are big crowded gigs and I may be with someone – I remember a Springsteen gig (I think in Cardiff) a few years ago where it was very crowded and a bad atmosphere near the front so we moved to the back of the crowd where there was some space and proceeded to dance our socks off and had a ball. Likewise the back of the tent at Chagstock is often the place to be.
In general it seems that dancing attempts to cover at least three distinct purposes and these often get confused and lead to inhibition.
The first of these is dancing with a partner – particularly when young and trying to work out the attraction or not between you. At age about 6 in the late 50’s I briefly went to dancing classes to learn the steps. Sadly I didn’t take to it and refused to continue, so I never learnt to waltz or foxtrot or any of the social graces that went with that culture.
Fortunately by the time I was an adolescent and becoming interested in girls in the mid 60s pop music had happened and the twist etc had morphed into a sort of free-form dance that involved less contact (good for a terminally shy and unconfident teenager) and more just jigging about in front of the girl you fancied.
Fairly rapidly I stumbled across the fact that actually there was more pleasure to be gained from making a bodily connection with the music rather than failing to make any kind of connection with the girl of the day – but this was very confusing; was I supposed to be impressing her (they generally weren’t impressed) or enjoying myself (and it was often enjoyable).
Then in the early 70s that free form expressive dance to the music type of dancing started to morph again into a more self-conscious “look at me, I’m so cool” type of dancing – it became competitive and ultimately turned into disco, an aspirational commercialised form of the late 60’s hippie dancing.
However ever since the late 60s, when I briefly ran a mobile disco which was an excuse to get paid to attend people’s parties and freak-out to the music in the company of people I didn’t really know so it didn’t matter, I have managed to remake that deep connection between my body and the beat and the rhythm and melodic lines and move with the music through me.
As I say it seems to happen about once a year now that I get a real good workout dance; odd lesser known acts (or sometimes well-known-to-me acts) in secondary tents at festivals, accidental gigs that I have stumbled across – Ratdog a couple of times in Wolverhampton for example in the early 00’s, Stoneground in Cambridge Dorothy Ballroom in 1971 was seminal, a be-bop jazz band in the cellar of an apartment block in the arse end of Leningrad/St.Petersberg in 2006 (for sure no-one there knew me!), interestingly the most recent couple have been reggae gigs – Hayereyah at the Green Gathering last year or the year before and then tonight – The Lionhat Collective from Falmouth playing a benefit gig for LRSG in Lason this evening.
You let your feet find the beat, tap along with the main beat and the off beat and the cross beats and then they are moving in time with the words from the drum and the bass and the legs start to shake and sway and your feet move on the floor at the melody kicks in. You leave your hands on your hips and concentrate on the patterns that are building around the beat and gradually you find yourself following the faster cross rhythms as your toes and heels are tapping different times and your feet draw crazy patterns on the floor so you let your hands off your hips so your arms can counter balance the motion down below. Your focus is solely on your body and the beat and the music there is no one else in the room, nothing but the band and the motion they create. Now you are starting to fly, legs moving faster you enter the zone where all is natural motion and happiness flood through you at the execution of harmony in physical form.
One key is that you really have to not care – let yourself go with the music. The minute you become self-conscious all is lost and you are just posing. That is what has killed a lot of dance – people worrying about what other people think of them – it really really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get to that place where you are just suffused with joy. It doesn’t often happen, but when it does it is so worth it.
Thats it. It is not often that the conditions are right – but tonight was one such night. Thanks to LRSG and to the Lionhat Collective for being there.