What we discuss after we discuss dance

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

There’s a stage of exhaustion that my physique experiences the place I do know that the one motion I will do is dance. It’s a tiredness that appears like that furry feeling you get in your tooth after they’re too sugary, that comes from not leaving my flat typically sufficient, from the ache of being inside on a sunny day, from having stayed up too late taking part in 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 best right here, proper now approach. This want – which feels as pressing as the necessity to bathe if you really feel gross – is how I got here to find YouTube dance train movies normally and MadFit specifically. MadFit (a channel run by Canadian Maddie Lymburner which posts a variety of various sorts of train movies) has nearly 8 million subscribers. Throughout lockdown, following these movies grew to become a option to directly 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 and comply with ‘One Path dance celebration exercise’ is how I come again to myself. This sort of on a regular basis, home dance is how I make my physique a house.


Within the first lockdown, after I was flinging myself about my room to the sounds of 80s hits, my pal began filming dances together with her household on TikTok. She posted one or two on her non-public Instagram account and I discovered them gentle and enjoyable throughout a tough time and gave them an off-the-cuff 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 informed me that she’d tried to be taught varied routines that have been fashionable on the time when she’d been isolating together with her mother and father. I may 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 essentially the most embarrassing factor I’ve accomplished in my life,” she informed 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 pal. Ultimately, she agreed to inform me the title of her account if I didn’t inform anybody else. I promised. Later at residence, I watched my pal dance with vitality and confidence and the occasional misstep, wanting lovely, joyous and completely happy. 

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 mother and father and likewise on stage by way of native youth theatre and dance firms. As I grew to become an adolescent, self-consciousness set in as I realised I didn’t have the type of physique deemed ‘proper’ for dance – I used to be too massive, 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, typically shocking 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 each day lives. Most individuals don’t do or watch ballet, most individuals don’t go and see dance in prescribed places 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 other people 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 previous pal’s marriage ceremony or whether or not it’s after sugary alcopops in a darkish membership at 3am.

What does it imply after we don’t discuss this? What does it imply when billions of our bodies are mendacity within the clean areas on the web page after we discuss 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 acquire. 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 known as pal, which is particularly for non-professional dancers, discusses what could be misplaced within the strategy of professionalising one’s ardour when she talks about her love for dance as an adolescent; “Up till this level I had most likely seen not more than 10 skilled performances (and plenty of 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 incredible. However ‘being an artist’ has so many drawbacks.”

After all, there must be far better accessibility for skilled dancers however one thing is misplaced after we don’t widen our concept 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 day-after-day is in some way worse. The subtext is that this type of accessibility shouldn’t be one thing to be celebrated – that just some our bodies ought to dance and for these our bodies which can be deemed worthy, they need to solely dance in sure methods at sure instances. 

Maybe the worst half about TikTok is that similtaneously making dance enjoyable, public and (broadly) watchable, it additionally probably professionalises dance for all of us. In giving everyone the power to go viral, there’s all the time the possibility – nonetheless slim – that one may turn out to be a TikTok star and thus monetise one’s dancing. While there must be far better rights and higher fee for arts employees, in addition to extra clear routes for working in dance for many who wish to, there must also be extra routes to bop normally for anybody and everybody. I really feel like we don’t discuss 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 to be like like.


My physique – with its ache, its clumsiness, its lack of coordination, and its sporadic mobility issues – appears like one that’s destined to be designated as ‘viewers’ within the dance world. It appears like its job is to react within the acceptable vogue, to observe, to gasp, to chortle (however solely in the best locations), to watch. This was the position I carried out, obediently and nicely, for therefore a few years. YouTube jogged my memory that I could be each that and one thing else, and even each on the similar time. Audiences don’t should be static or versus. They don’t even should exist in any respect.


My our bodies dances with capitalism. It dances with capitalism after I watch MadFit and I’ve to pause when the advert breaks come on as a result of YouTube consistently 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 prepare doorways or whether or not you’re an expert dancer who dances for a corporation that’s sponsored by different (business) firms or in any other case has to interact in capitalist fashions of funding and income. 

TikTok and YouTube is perhaps apparent of their capitalism and the way in which they exist to mine your consideration and information. Evidently, we have to critique the large issues inherent in these information giants and the way in which they attempt to make having a very good time with associates right into a efficiency of conviviality for an viewers. However this doesn’t imply that we should 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 larger. I wish to stay in a world the place we are able to dance on the bus or at residence or wherever, for ourselves or for associates or whoever, with no matter physique and vary of motion is accessible to us on the time. The place my pal may very well be happy with her TikTok dance movies and never have to cover behind a deluge of ‘it was just for enjoyable’s. I need all that and never only for an app or for likes. However maybe we’ve to simply accept that the proliferation of social media has confirmed us the very beginnings of what a extra liberated (dance) world may appear to be. 

There must 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 taking part in 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 after I want an opportunity to flee in a approach that appears to completely different attainable futures, I’ll all the time be capable of return to the highs of ‘90s throwback dance celebration’.