Do you remember the very first time you did something? I remember the very first time I went to a dance class. It was held at my school – a sort of ‘try before you buy’ thing – with a teacher from a nearby dance school. I was dying to go. I’d been to see a musical at the Milton theatre and there were some children from the local dance school taking part. They had such amazing costumes! And the girls all had their hair up with little crowns on their heads and I just thought, I want to do that. (I know, typical little girl! I should add at this time I also thought that ‘princess’ was something you could do when you grew up.)
This beautiful teacher stood at the front and told us her name was Laney and she was a dancer. She had a long skirt on and shiny silver shoes. I immediately wanted shoes like that, but I had to make do with my black plimsolls which squeaked on the floor. She told us that this was more of a trying-out class and we shouldn’t worry if we couldn’t do some of the steps.
But I could. I don’t know how. I just watched what Laney did and then I did it too. Most of the other children were having trouble. Their feet kept getting tangled up or they were turning round the wrong way. Not me – it was like my feet just knew exactly what to do. And it felt BRILLIANT.
Up until then, I hadn’t really shone at anything. I was an average child: I knew it and my parents knew it. Even at six, you know instinctively which are the clever pupils and which are the stupid ones in your class. I was bang in the middle. Not clever, not stupid, just average. And I hadn’t really minded that. But this…as soon as I started to dance, I knew this was something I could really do, better than most other people. And it gave me this immense feeling, like there was an inflating balloon inside me, making me feel twice as tall and twice as proud of myself.
Laney noticed too, and I knew she had seen that I was better than the rest of the kids. At the end, she came over and asked if I had done any dancing before and I said no. And she said maybe I should start coming to her classes because I was obviously quick to pick up steps and had I enjoyed it? And I didn’t know what to say because how do you describe enjoyment in such enormous terms? So I just smiled and nodded.
And that was that. I was hooked. I went to dance class every single week, even when I was ill. I would be off school with tonsillitis but would beg my mum to let me go to dancing. One time I was due to perform in a show and I was running a temperature of 102ºF. But I knew I couldn’t let the others down – especially not Jake, my partner. So I performed in the show and then went straight home to bed and more paracetamol.
I don’t think I want to be a dancer when I leave school. As time has gone by, I’ve realised that although I love it and I’m good at it, I’m probably not as good as you need to be to reach the top. Jake and I always had too much fun dancing together. We took it seriously but not too seriously, if you know what I mean. We did sometimes mess around in Laney’s class which made her a bit cross. And we never practised as much as we should.
But dancing will always be part of my life and I still feel exactly the same as I did all those years ago at that very first dance class. It’s like – magic.