What we speak about once we speak about dance

Phrases by Elspeth Wilson. Elspeth took half in our Visitor Writers growth programme, supported by Arts Council England.

There’s a degree of exhaustion that my physique experiences the place I do know that the one motion I can do is dance. It’s a tiredness that looks like that furry feeling you get in your tooth after they’re too sugary, that comes from not leaving my flat usually sufficient, from the ache of being inside on a sunny day, from having stayed up too late enjoying the Sims, from imagining what my life may very well be like in one other universe. These tirednesses can solely be fastened by dance. 

They usually can solely be fastened by a dance that it’s accessible in the appropriate right here, proper now approach. This want – which feels as pressing as the necessity to bathe while you really feel gross – is how I got here to find YouTube dance train movies on the whole and MadFit particularly. MadFit (a channel run by Canadian Maddie Lymburner which posts a variety of various sorts of train movies) has virtually 8 million subscribers. Throughout lockdown, following these movies turned a option to without delay escape and situate myself in my physique. Nonetheless now, if I’m having a nasty day and know I gained’t be capable of do one other type of motion, sweating in my pyjamas as I try to comply with ‘One Course dance occasion exercise’ is how I come again to myself. This type of on a regular basis, home dance is how I make my physique a house.


Within the first lockdown, once I was flinging myself about my room to the sounds of 80s hits, my good friend began filming dances along with her household on TikTok. She posted one or two on her non-public Instagram account and I discovered them mild and enjoyable throughout a tough time and gave them an informal like. It wasn’t till a number of years later that I spoke to her extra about her TikTok dances and realised simply how into it she was. She advised me that she’d tried to be taught numerous routines that have been widespread on the time when she’d been isolating along with her dad and mom. I might inform from her face that the dances had purchased her happiness and motion when she was in any other case restricted, but in addition that she was uncomfortable speaking about it. 

“It’s probably the most embarrassing factor I’ve completed in my life,” she advised me. “Nobody can see them.” I protested and reassured, telling her about my crap dancing in a birthday video that was as soon as posted on Fb for a good friend. Finally, she agreed to inform me the identify of her account if I didn’t inform anybody else. I promised. Later at dwelling, I watched my good friend dance with vitality and confidence and the occasional misstep, wanting stunning, joyous and blissful. 

A number of months later, I see some 13 year-olds filming their TikTok video on the entrance seats of the bus. My first intuition is to cough till I catch myself. The giggles and hilarity ensuing from their dance are infectious and blow away my snobbishness.


MadFit, Taylor Swift – MIDNIGHTS DANCE PARTY (10 min, full physique exercise), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWHz91l5bos

Once I was youthful, I danced on a regular basis, each in exhibits I placed on myself for my long-suffering dad and mom and in addition on stage by way of native youth theatre and dance firms. As I turned a teen, self-consciousness set in as I realised I didn’t have the type of physique deemed ‘proper’ for dance – I used to be too large, too tall, too booby. Later, when the ache got here, it felt like I used to be additional away from dance than I had ever been. I didn’t even dance on nights out anymore and I ached for these pure moments of abandon.

The (return) path to bop is meandering, usually stunning and all too frequent after earlier misdirection. 


For most individuals, the type of dance that we consider as being part of ‘tradition’ is a separable, subtle factor that performs little to no half of their day by day lives. Most individuals don’t do or watch ballet, most individuals don’t go and see dance in prescribed areas at prescribed instances, or attend any type of formalised dance class. However lots of people do have interaction in train movies. And lots of people do watch Tiktok. And folks do dance – they transfer their our bodies, they’ve enjoyable, whether or not it’s for digicam or whether or not it’s at an outdated good friend’s wedding ceremony or whether or not it’s after sugary alcopops in a darkish membership at 3am.

What does it imply once we don’t speak about this? What does it imply when billions of our bodies are mendacity within the clean areas on the web page once we speak about dance? 


Dance is one thing I do badly however I take pleasure in it. As an expert author, I’ve discovered it essential to have creativity in my life that isn’t in service of particular person betterment or monetary achieve. If something, pursuing (a type of) artwork in an expert capability has made me really feel extra strongly about the necessity to promote and protect entry to artwork as one thing enjoyable, foolish, and playful.

Gillie Kleiman, who wrote a rating referred to as good friend, which is particularly for non-professional dancers, discusses what will be misplaced within the means of professionalising one’s ardour when she talks about her love for dance as a teen; “Up till this level I had most likely seen not more than 10 skilled performances (and many youth and group performances), so I didn’t know to what I used to be relating, and it didn’t happen to me to care. I simply needed to do it. It was enjoyable.” In the identical blogpost which displays on the delight of constructing artwork exterior your skilled artform, Kleiman goes on to say “Making artwork is implausible. However ‘being an artist’ has so many drawbacks.”

In fact, there needs to be far higher accessibility for skilled dancers however one thing is misplaced once we don’t widen our thought of accessibility to additionally take into consideration the non-professional. The division between ‘excessive’ and ‘low’ tradition itself is inaccessible – it says that the type of dance that I do, the type of dance that hundreds of thousands of individuals watch on daily basis is in some way worse. The subtext is that this sort of accessibility just isn’t one thing to be celebrated – that just some our bodies ought to dance and for these our bodies which are deemed worthy, they need to solely dance in sure methods at sure instances. 

Maybe the worst half about TikTok is that concurrently making dance enjoyable, public and (broadly) watchable, it additionally doubtlessly professionalises dance for all of us. In giving everyone the flexibility to go viral, there may be all the time the prospect – nonetheless slim – that one might turn into a TikTok star and thus monetise one’s dancing. While there needs to be far higher rights and higher cost for arts employees, in addition to extra clear routes for working in dance for individuals who wish to, there must also be extra routes to bop on the whole for anybody and everybody. I really feel like we don’t speak about that sufficient – the enjoyment of doing issues badly, the irreverence and sheer enjoyable of dancing for and together with your physique, it doesn’t matter what it appears like.


My physique – with its ache, its clumsiness, its lack of coordination, and its sporadic mobility issues – looks like one that’s destined to be designated as ‘viewers’ within the dance world. It looks like its job is to react within the acceptable vogue, to look at, to gasp, to giggle (however solely in the appropriate locations), to look at. This was the function I carried out, obediently and properly, for therefore a few years. YouTube jogged my memory that I will be each that and one thing else, and even each on the identical time. Audiences don’t need to be static or versus. They don’t even need to exist in any respect.


My our bodies dances with capitalism. It dances with capitalism once I watch MadFit and I’ve to pause when the advert breaks come on as a result of YouTube continuously finds methods to dodge my adblocker. Your physique dances with capitalism too, whether or not you simply transfer it a sure option to swerve spherical closing practice doorways or whether or not you’re an expert dancer who dances for an organization that’s sponsored by different (industrial) firms or in any other case has to have interaction in capitalist fashions of funding and income. 

TikTok and YouTube could be apparent of their capitalism and the way in which they exist to mine your consideration and knowledge. Evidently, we have to critique the large issues inherent in these knowledge giants and the way in which they try to make having time with pals right into a efficiency of conviviality for an viewers. However this doesn’t imply that we must always low cost types of dance that may be viral of their sense of camaraderie and enjoyable, in addition to algorithmically. 

On social media, I’ve seen extra sorts of our bodies dance than I’ve ever seen earlier than, and irreverence and playfulness that I haven’t skilled since I used to be a toddler. We simply must dream greater. I wish to reside in a world the place we are able to dance on the bus or at dwelling or wherever, for ourselves or for pals or whoever, with no matter physique and vary of motion is obtainable to us on the time. The place my good friend may very well be pleased with her TikTok dance movies and never have to cover behind a deluge of ‘it was just for enjoyable’s. I would like all that and never only for an app or for likes. However maybe we now have to just accept that the proliferation of social media has confirmed us the very beginnings of what a extra liberated (dance) world might seem like. 

There needs to be so many probabilities to bop in life. My physique will searching for them when nothing else will do. I’ll be dancing to Taylor Swift by myself late at evening in my room. I’ll be doing MadFit movies and whirling spherical and spherical when the adverts are enjoying in order that the frenzy of my very own blood in my ears blocks out the sounds of somebody making an attempt to promote me one thing. I’ll know that once I want an opportunity to flee in a approach that appears to totally different potential futures, I’ll all the time be capable of return to the highs of ‘90s throwback dance occasion’.