I had thought that it would be a great idea to put my daughter’s name down for some dance workshops at the local children’s centre…
When I dubiously poked my head around the door and saw three fully grown adults lying dead still and dramatically sprawled out across the floor, I wondered what on earth I had signed myself and my toddler up for.
On reflection, I feel that it was rather mis-sold. Maybe I read the invitation incorrectly but I rather expected to go along to a set of three jolly classes, led by a professional dance company, in which my daughter could twirl around like a ballerina and have a lovely time. The reality was a strokey, rolly, interpretive, contemporary kind of performance and a request for feedback at the end.
I couldn’t quite work it out. We were invited to sit down in a square a bit too close to the non-moving bodies for my liking. I felt like we were watching strangers sleep which was uncomfortable at best. I made eyes at my friend next to me who whispered “…I’m scared.” We politely sat and waited. They still didn’t move. We waited some more. I noticed that the woman on the floor had probably never shaved her armpits…
My daughter unsurprisingly wanted to climb into my lap. One worried Mum across the room whispered a bit too loudly “Are they dead?!” which made me chuckle. Maybe the dancers heard this and realised that they were beginning to alarm the room, as they soon began to gently roll out of position or at least wriggle a finger here and there. One dancers was at least in his 50s and revealed brightly coloured Calvin Kleins.
Their movements gradually built and eventually they were… I personally wouldn’t call it dancing. It was amusing to think that I had chosen, of my own free will, to spend my Tuesday morning watching hairy ladies and sweaty, bald men skipping about.
Movements included dragging themselves around the space…I couldn’t help but be reminded of the walking dead… and often keeping physical contact with one another. I was impressed (?) at how at ease they were with being rolled over or tangled up in someone else’s leg. There was also lots of stroking faces with intense expressions. It would be an interesting experiment to see how my closest friends reacted if I made contact with them like that. I may try it.
The creative folk then started mimicking the children in the audience. This alerted my memory back to the handout we had received which invited us to this show. It had mentioned interaction; something about the exploration of touch and discovering the world around. Maybe that’s why they kept grabbing each other. Maybe they were being babies when they were lying down at the beginning…? Not slugs.
My daughter didn’t appreciate the symbolism and flinched away whenever a dancer came near her direction. She shook her head with a face of disgust when they reached out and offered for her to join them. I wasn’t surprised. I graciously declined too. I’m all for trying new things and I love a bit of performing once in a while, but I couldn’t leave my daughter on her own, uncomfortable by the ringside. That was my excuse anyway.
When a long 40 minutes was up, the dance company finished in another dramatic collapse on the floor and the room hesitantly clapped. They then started wandering around, in search of feedback… I thought that bolting for the door was probably verging on rude so I sat there, trying not to make eye contact and failed.
I greeted the now cheery performer and used words like ‘interesting’ and phrases like ‘never seen anything like it’… I didn’t mention that I never wanted to again. I praised that it was good to offer interaction with the children but not to force it. Some of the kids there were clearly born to be interpretive dancers. Others were not. I was secretly quite glad that my daughter hadn’t loved it and, after thanking the performers and saying our goodbyes, quietly visited the reception and asked if our place for the remaining sessions could kindly be given to someone else.
Processing the experience with my daughter was eye-opening to see this odd world from a younger pair of eyes. To me, it seemed obvious that she hadn’t enjoyed it. She had sat spellbound for the entire duration of the performance but I interpreted that as incredulity. She pondered my questions carefully when I asked her what she thought about it all.
Hoping for confirmation that she was as unimpressed as I was, I waited for her to answer. It turns out that I really don’t know what is going on in my little one’s mind, and that, even if we do share an opinion, we don’t necessarily have the same response to it. After a while she concluded, in the same sentence, that she “didn’t really like it” and “can we go again tomorrow?” I sighed and begrudgingly went back to the receptionist to ask for tomorrow’s ticket back again.