Dance like nobody's watching

Our recent experience of lock down has been a physical one, locking us into our homes and out of public spaces. But there are other ways of being locked in and out. I remember when I was ten years old, my mother held a party for her sixth formers. She was a popular form tutor and they were happy to come and celebrate the end of their exams in our garden. I wore my favourite dress, pink checked gingham with a full skirt that billowed when I danced. Several kind teenagers invited me to jive with them – this was a year or so before the twist transformed the way young people inhabited the dance floor. But suddenly it was all too much for me and I ran away to hide behind the sofa. People came to coax me out but I wouldn’t move. They didn’t understand what was wrong and neither did I. It was the first time that I found myself paralysed by self-consciousness, but not the last. As I grew older there were other occasions – standing stiffly on the edge of the crowd at the freshers’ ball in my first year of college, a failed attempt to learn salsa, a ceilidh or two where everyone except me got hilariously tangled in knots trying to follow the caller’s instructions. Some of us find it hard to dance like nobody is watching because we are always watching ourselves. We are locked into our own heads and locked out of the social activity that we long to join in.