This article was originally published in the Dance Like a Mother website with the same title: We’re all stars when we’re dancing.
A huge crowd is coming out of the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, UK. They walk excitedly but focused. The vast majority are women. They are all carrying their babies in slings. They all seem to be carrying props. Some carry a fabric fan. Some, a little foam guitar. Others, a colourful headpiece.
The music starts, they go in formation and they start dancing to the beat. And do you know who is in the middle of that huge crowd of dancing mums?
Little shy me.
Someone who never sends food back in a restaurant just because she’s too embarrassed. Even if the food is raw and tastes like sweat. No ma’am, you won’t catch me saying “Excuse me, this is going to kill me if I eat it. Can you take it away and bring something that’s actually edible?”
But there I was. Proudly dancing in front of a huge crowd, with people filming and taking photos. And I didn’t even care.
Where do I start! That performance during Manchester Day 2019 was the cherry on top of weeks of practise with the Dance Like a Mother community. It was the result of every dance lesson I took with my baby, where I was told it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong, just have a laugh and give us your best jazz hands, where I made really good friends, where my baby had the best naps in the history of naps.
The routines we danced that day were easy enough for someone like me, who loves dancing when nobody is looking but has two left feet. So practise didn’t feel like practise. It felt like me goofing about with my badass mum-friends.
Shortly after I joined Dance Like a Mother, the weekly lessons became the highlight of my maternity leave. So much so that when it was time to go back to work I requested to have half a day off each week just so I could carry on dancing. And last year’s performance captured everything that led me to that decision.
That performance was a huge step out of my comfort zone. I admit it was a little scary when I realised how many people were watching. Coming out of the theatre and seeing so many people made me feel really conscious of my body, my hair, my face and even the clothes I had chosen to wear. I felt everything was wrong and I should just turn around and discreetly disappear. But I looked around and realised that the majority, if not all, the mums were also looking a little scared. So I thought well, obviously I’m not alone in feeling this way. I also thought about the lessons, how much fun we had every single week and I decided I was going to live the moment like I lived every lesson: feeling welcomed, appreciated and part of a dance troupe that’s more interested in my wellbeing than in how perfectly I remembered every single step.
So, despite that moment of anxiety, I’d do it over and over again.
I’d do it again because I had the most fun. The feeling once the music started and I knew the first step, and the next, and the next was incredible. I’d do it again because I knew that, if I made a mistake, people wouldn’t actually notice because there were so many of us -ha! And because I loved looking down and seeing my daughter’s face smiling back at me. I don’t know if babies feel pride, but I’m pretty sure she was proud of me during the performance. I felt like a real star when I was dancing.
I’d do it again because I was dancing with this bunch of amazing mums and, more importantly, because I was dancing next to one of my best friends and her little boy. We knew each other a little when we joined Dance Like a Mother, but we became great friends through dancing together. And, although we have some great memories together beyond dancing, that performance will definitely and always be at the top of our list of happy moments.
So I don’t know if you like dancing or not. Or if you’re as shy as I am or not. What I do know is that when I’m listening to the radio and they play Shut up and dance by Walk the Moon or Everlasting by Take That, all of those feelings come rushing back. And when I manage to remember some of the steps, I feel like a star again. Because…
We’re all stars when we’re dancing.