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Working class dance

Image credit: Jamie Bell in 'Billy Elliot' written by Lee Hall & directed by Stephen DaldryImage credit: Jamie Bell in 'Billy Elliot' written by Lee Hall & directed by Stephen Daldry

Walking into the space, my eyes scan the room and I see bodies and unfortunately for me, familiar faces. Once again I have found myself in the same predicament: a tug of war/love. Learning and enjoyment vs fear and self-consciousness.

A play/dance which repeats itself.

(A very long silence)

I have walked into a tribal environment, a place, a space of identities, dreams, desires, cruising and perhaps failure. Dance class venues of London. Buildings of reputation, mirrors and bodily fluids. I encounter the tribes which haunt these institutes. They are the dancers of light, darkness and rhythm.

I am an alien in a foreign galaxy. The grey stone among shiny jewels.

I’m working class.

I lived on a council estate for 10 years, have been on benefits and now am trying to break into the dance world, which is proving extremely difficult… Especially when you got bad A-levels and that meant you couldn’t get into the dance school you wanted to and your family couldn’t have afforded it anyways.

Through my own hard work I went to Laban and studied for an MA. Whilst there I worked in a bar all the hours god sent, modelled nude, danced for free and covered myself in Lard.

Perhaps I am coming across bitter? Envious? But seriously, I am kind of annoyed and confused. Confused that every time I finish the 90 minutes I’m sweaty, red faced, clock watched, body watched, self-conscious and wondering about my lack of ability to ‘flow’ anymore.

Also, I am mortified that the guy I slept with yonks ago watched me plié…

Walking home (the bike is broken) I wonder what the issue is? What’s the deal with my desires/ failures/ frustrations? Is it just me? Or do others feel this? Do they feel inequality within the dance world? Conscious of their accent? Fully aware that they didn’t go to a Summer Intensive as a teen or that Mum didn’t fork out for private Ballet lessons?

I google obscure dance classes in London. Places that have good teachers, are well located and not that well known. I just don’t want anyone I know to watch me dance. See my ungainly limbs struggle with the working class coal within my blood.

To dance is to expose your identity, to lay it bare. To be open to the elements, emotions and energies. And not feel like Billy Elliot living in a grey painting.

Should I buy retro tracksuit bottoms and carry a foam roller, will I then be at peace? Shall I perform the role of a dancer/mover in London? Talk about the genius of Merce Cunningham? Share a FB post of my favourite review?

Perform the role and cross over to the other side. Change the way I eat and the way I dress. So I can fit into middle class settings, I will denounce my history! And become Eliza Dolittlesque. Round those vowels and travel Europe.

I don’t think that other working class dancers/students and I lack ability. It’s confidence we lack, the safety of a space where we can fully be ourselves.

Educational institutions which cater for the Arts should definitely adapt and help rip down the ever growing fence of inequality which rises within the Capital.

Make fees lower, increase community outreach and stop perpetuating middle class stereotypes.

And if that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous and sweaty, I never really did learn how to perform that Hugh Grant/Kiera Knightly middle class trick of self-loathing…

I’m fighting, I’m dancing in the street and under the street lamps.

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