Dancing is synonymous with Ireland and Irish culture. It forms a staple part of our heritage and I think most of us were brought up to learn Irish dancing at some stage in our lives (whether jigs, reels, ceili dances etc.).
No more than story telling, group or social dances were often performed at social gatherings like weddings, fairs and holidays and it was a celebratory community affair. It was a time to bring people of all ages together and let loose and enjoy the freedom, fun and laughter dance brings. I remember my parents telling stories of how they would travel the country for social dances. It was the done thing. There were some famous (or infamous!) dance halls at the time that their generation would still talk about.
Over the last few months some friends and I joined a social dancing club. For years I’ve wanted to learn how to jive properly. I love (at a wedding or gathering) watching the older generation tear up the dance floor to a good jiving song and I would have been the first up for a go if anyone asked me to join. I always said with a strong lead (and a few drinks!) I could follow. I loved the buzz and fun of all the twists and turns and I was always in awe of the talent and the skill of people moving around in time to the music. They read each other so well and coordinated the moves so effortlessly and seamlessly. It all looked so natural and easy.
So finally after years of talking about it, I am actually learning to jive. The first hurdle was building the courage to go in the first place. I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. I didn’t know if everyone would be really advanced, if I’d be the youngest person there, if I’d be holding the class back or what dances we’d be learning. I specifically wanted to learn to jive but I wasn’t sure if they focused on jiving or not.
Myself and a friend (more friends have joined in now too!) have gone a good few times at this stage and I’m amazed at how quick we have picked it up. I can actually say that I can jive now (I know the footwork without having to really think about it) but there are lots of twists and turns that the instructor adds in so we keep progressing. When the arm movements are very complex, that’s when it’s hard to think of everything and keep in time to the music, but that’s part of the fun. I can honestly say we laugh so much during the classes. We have also done some quick step, fox trot and waltzing.
Growing up, we went to discos and while we had fun and danced, it was very much an isolated activity. You were with your group of friends, dancing in a circle and that was it. Rarely did you mingle with another group, or if you dared step into their circle, the elbows would be up and you’d be swiftly eased back into your own space.
The beauty of the social dancing is that everyone is there to dance, brush up on his or her skills and to just enjoy the dancing for what it is. You can go up to anyone in the class and ask them for a dance, without having to worry about them getting any funny ideas.
I always loved dancing. Music always made me feel something but often when younger (especially in the awkward teenage years) I stopped myself from dancing for fear of looking ‘uncool’ or not doing it right. Now it’s something I embrace at the drop of a hat. There is nothing more fun then dancing. It is so good for the soul, endorphins are released (the bodies ‘feel good’ chemicals) and I personally find myself beaming when dancing. It’s like everything stops and this bubble of joy surrounds me, no matter what’s going on. It’s a great way to switch off and just let the music take over. It forces you to release tension, relax, become aware of the rhythm, and surrender to the movement.
So next time on the dance floor (or anywhere), let loose, smile and ‘Dance like no one is watching’.
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