On Tuesday, I was a guest author on the The Story Ape’s blog, where I wrote about Israeli folk dancing.

Ailsa Abraham commented:

I started in late middle age with Breton dancing and although exhausting it was such fun to be moving in rhythm with other people. Metaphor for life, perhaps?

The comment got me thinking about my relationship with dancing.

It began at the age of four with ballet. I had private lessons because the class was on Saturdays and I couldn’t join that for religious reasons. But I was allowed to take part in the annual concert, which was also on a Saturday. We walked to the hall because travel wasn’t allowed, and the teacher took the clothes I had to change into and wasn’t allowed to carry. I enjoyed ballet. I would probably have enjoyed the class more than the private lessons. I’d have enjoyed dancing in rhythm with other girls, but religion prevented me from doing that. I took some of the ballet exams. The best remark I got was that I had a very good sense of rhythm.

I don’t remember how I picked up the twist. Maybe from watching it on the telly. Maybe we did it at summer schools. I remember being good at it. I remember dancing it on the last day of primary school.

There were never many occasions to dance while I was at school. A wedding here, a party there. It was something I knew how to do. I watched what everyone else did and copied them. I always had confidence in my ability to dance. They laughed at me when I spoke, but never when I danced.

MeAndTheTribe

Being different (with a dance group in an Indian village)

At university there were several opportunities to dance. I loved them all. In particular, I liked dancing to the Rolling Stones’ song, Brown Sugar. I didn’t know what it was about; I just loved the music. And I loved jumping around in time with the music and in time with all the other dancers. This was something I could do at least as well as everyone else.

People I worked with were surprised to see me dance at all, let alone better and in a more liberated way than most. They assumed anxiety over talking must extend to every other activity. They were wrong.

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover folk dancing in Israel. For once, this was an activity in which I could be in step with everyone else. In everyday life I was always out of step. The only problem is that there’s more to going dancing than dancing. It’s also a time for talking.

My conclusion? Dancing is not a metaphor for my life. It’s a metaphor for what my life might have been.

If this post seems a bit confused, I think that’s because writing it has confused me. In the words of Fagin in the musical Oliver, I think I’d better think it out again. Can you help? Help me get my feet back on the ground? No, Beatles. I’m happier jumping in the air.

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