Our living room is a stage and a rehearsal space.
My eldest daughter reminds me of this daily. She has taken up dancing…after her own fashion. It involves a tutu and a studied expression, a series of energetic skips, leaps and fairly audible landings. I don’t recognise the steps – I’ve decided it must be innate. After all, her exposure to dance extends only as far as maypole dancing, snatched glimpses of Come Dancing on her great aunt’s television, pictures of ballerinas in books…
Her moves are wild, then deliberate, considered, tentative but definite, exuberant yet a little halting. I watch out of the side of my eye as this earnest three-year-old contains her energy in a succession of shapes, consciously, ever more self-consciously… and then jubilant with new accomplishment calls me to watch, to share her new discovery…only to suddenly close the door on my excitement.
She’s overcome by that awkwardness I remember so well.
I am touched by her sudden bashfulness, and wonder whether self-doubt too is innate. As the door closes I catch her leaping between abandon and self-awareness and suddenly recognise this dance for what it is.
I grieve a little for her naivety.
She dances to discover what dance is, what it means to her limbs, her head and her heart, but most of all, to discover herself.
This dance has been emerging since she was born, perhaps even before that. But this first invited audience with her mother is here, in our living room. Yes, I think, we go to such pains to create these safe spaces, the ones we wrap around ourselves and our families, because it takes us to feel ‘at home’ with ourselves, and others, before we can truly dance. We all have a ‘living room’ with doors that we can pull to, a space that allows us to test life out first on those we trust and love. Are we not all closet exhibitionists of the wild kind, expressive, passionate, showing off in the most natural way behind closed doors? We invite people in for a self-conscious, ever so slightly rehearsed performance now and again. But whether we practice or perform life, we are living it, and quite often in our living rooms.