The thing I miss most is dancing: that rush of euphoria, all caught up in the thrill of the moment

Heaven knows when it will feel safe to be breathing and singing in a crowded space  the thought makes me sad. 

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I’ve only myself to blame. Back at the beginning of lockdown, when everyone was doing the Joe Wicks workout, and getting into Peloton, and joining Zoom Zumba classes, I bought myself a cocktail shaker. I’m not saying I was wrong, but it is perhaps revealing of my state of mind. I was feeling the deprivation, and the isolation, and I was trying to cheer myself up.

Everything seemed to have been taken away, and so I turned my attention to little highs throughout the day. The house filled up with chocolate, and biscuits, and ice creams, and spirits, and every night I cooked something good, and every other night I made fabulous cocktails, and it was all going fine until the day I couldn’t get into my jeans.

I’m not asking for sympathy here at all, but I’m sure I’m not the only one in this situation, so maybe we can cut each other some slack. And it feels rather pointed when, on the same day that I have trouble with the jeans, the government announces that the nation as a whole needs to get in shape in order to be prepared for any possible Covid second wave.

I find it annoying to be hearing these pronouncements about obesity from a government that breezes past acknowledging any connection between deprivation and diet, or austerity and food banks. But I suppose I will have to add it to the list of other things about this government which I find, to put it mildly, annoying.

Maybe I can pedal away my annoyance in a furious session on the exercise bike, which we bought a few weeks ago. Well, Ben did. “I don’t like exercise bikes,” I told him as he was ordering it, so I can only imagine the eye-rolling he is now doing behind my back as I spend hours each day emulating Bradley Wiggins in the corner of the sitting room.

I don’t madly like it though. Like all exercise, it’s basically boring, and only made tolerable by the creation of a new playlist, constructed along accelerating BPM to encourage and motivate me. It’s impossible not to want to move when in your ears is Missy Elliott’s “Hot Boyz” followed by Sugababes’ “About You Now”, followed by Blondie and the Strokes and Cameo and Loose Ends. These kinds of playlists can throw up nice random juxtapositions. So I have “Antmusic” segueing into Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris”, and Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” going into Katy Perry’s “Roar”, and Lorde’s “Perfect Places” going into Prince’s “Alphabet St”. It’s almost enough to distract me from the fact that it’s hard work.

I take my hands off the handlebars and try to dance while I’m pedalling and I have the thought that perhaps dancing is the thing I miss most of all at the moment. I don’t go out clubbing that often but it is on the dance floor that I find that rush of euphoria, that glorious mix of privacy and connection that you get in a room full of strangers, all caught up in the thrill of the music, the buzz of the moment. I can’t imagine when I’ll next be able to do that. I suppose clubs will be the last things to reopen. Heaven knows when it will feel safe to be breathing and singing and sweating in a crowded space. The thought makes me sad.

Later I tell my daughter that I miss dancing and she immediately passes me her phone which is open on the Instagram page of Ryan Heffington, an LA-based dancer and choreographer who is currently offering online classes which double up as a workout. And the reason she has his page open on her phone is that one of her friends has just sent her a link saying, “OMG LOOK IT’S YOUR MUM AND DAD”, because, sure enough, in the middle of one of these fabulous dance sessions, on comes “Missing”.

It won’t be the first time I’ve danced to one of my own songs, but perhaps the first time I’ve exercised to one. I’ve written about being in a club and hearing one of our songs come on. I don’t always recognise it immediately, especially if it’s an unfamiliar remix. Then I hear my voice come in. “Someone singing and I realise it’s me.” This is the closest I’m going to get to that experience for quite some time. I’ll have to make the most of it.

Tracey Thorn is a musician and writer, best known as one half of Everything but the Girl. She writes the fortnightly “Off the Record” column for the New Statesman. Her books include Naked at the Albert Hall, Bedsit Disco Queen and, most recently, Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia 

This article appears in the 14 August 2020 issue of the New Statesman, This house must fall

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