Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dance you fools, dance! - Kait's Mixtape

When I was growing up I never thought I was particularly knowledgable about music. I felt like there were these people who just knew about songs - the people who'd written them, the instruments that were used and the influence they had - and people who didn't. I felt like I fell into this latter category because when asked I often couldn't recall a song title or musician and I owned very few cassettes or CDs.

My brother was a music person, as was my dad and to a large extent my mum, but I was not. I was apart because I couldn't tell you my favourite genre or artist. I knew I loved Paul Simon's 'Graceland' from my dad's tape collection and Sinead O'Connor's 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got' from my mum's tape collection. My parents own a turntable and taught me and my brother how to put on a record, lining up the needle to catch the vinyl grooves. We listened to the crackling albums of Queen, Manhattan Transfer, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and of course, The Beatles.

But this was all their music and I didn't know the names and titles of artists and songs. I just knew that I love dancing and when certain songs came on I couldn't help but move my feet. I would put on Simon and Garfunkle's 'Cecelia' and clap and stamp around the living room. I worked out an entire routine to 'Missing' by Everything But The Girl. My entire family would get in on it when my dad put on 'Don't Fence Me In' as done by David Byrne.

As the years passed and I started junior high and then high school, I began to discover my own music. I soon realised that there wasn't any particular genre which took my fancy. My basis for loving a song was on how much it inspired me to move my body. With headphones on I soon established a soundtrack to my activities. I loved a solid beat to accompany my feet when I was walking, a quick rhythm to match the spinning of my tires when I went cycling, and a lightness of lyrics for when I sat on a swing, kicking my feet into the air.

But the joy and freedom of dancing became a thing reserved for my living room, and usually when I was alone in the house. I no longer felt comfortable dancing in front of anyone. The awkwardness of junior high and the rules of high school forbid it. It wasn't until I moved to an alternative high school that I began to realise that I was not doing something I loved because of what other people might think. At eighteen and nineteen I discovered the joys of the gay bar and the glorious selection of dance music to be found there, but even then, I had to be at least tipsy to touch the dance floor.

I was aware of this, however, and it led me to consider what it meant.

As a child one of my favourite sayings was 'Dance like no one is watching.' I didn't grasp its meaning entirely but as a kid I thought it was a good saying made of solid stuff and worth repeating. I danced because I liked it and I didn't get why anyone watching should or would make a difference. The indifference and cruelty of my junior high school experience made me see that I wasn't right. My hair wasn't right, my clothes weren't right and my taste in music most certainly wasn't right.

My experience in high school made me see that what other people thought shouldn't dictate what was right. That the right things were the things which were true to myself and I could cut my hair as I pleased, wear what I found comfortable and listen to music that I enjoyed.

It wasn't until a few years ago, though, that I learned how to really apply that. This was when I began to focus on my art and writing more, when I decided to travel and see the places I often talked about seeing. This was also when I really got what it meant to dance like no one was watching. I stopped drinking and any trips I took to the dance floor were entirely fueled by my love of the music. I would go out early so I could have the dance floor to myself. I'd wave to the DJ and under a canopy of lasers and lights I would dance to anything they played for me. As the floor would fill up I'd make my dance circles smaller and once I was confined to a space where I could do no more than jig on the spot, I would go home.

It was my dance therapy. I love it. And I've decided to take it to the streets. Inspired by a conversation with a friend and the 'Silent Disco' at the Science Museum, I have made up my mind to go out, into the centre of London, and just dance.

I'm currently working on my play list and I need your help. I need to know what songs you love to dance to. What songs get you moving. Anything at all.

This will be an performance art installment, my very first, and one which you may be invited to join. I'll keep you posted on the developments as long as you keep sharing that music.

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