It’s Monday hence a bit of music to kick the week off. Today, I’ll tell you something about dancing and how important it has been in my life, and I am sure in many other people’s.
I don’t remember when exactly I first started listening to music or dancing, but it did feature in my childhood which was often fraught with upheavals and instability. You see, I was born in the early 1960s in a country which was embroiled in a massive political movement: The Cultural Revolution. Yes, there were certainly song and dance, among the fights and political struggles. When I entered school, revolutionary songs, operas and a loyalty dance (To Chairman Mao) were all the rage across China. I learnt to sing Modern Beijing Operas and I performed at school assemblies. I was in the school dancing troupe as a young adolescent. They were interesting times.
I got older and I went to University. Times were hard and I did not even own a radio, but I did participate in a lot of extra curricular activities including gymnastics and Chinese dancing. Then came the 1980s when we had ‘Foreign Teachers’ from America, Britain and Canada who brought with them the Beatles, disco music and rock n’ roll. That was the time I really started enjoying dancing.
I remember the bitter cold winter in my Chongqing University dorm, when it was freezing both indoors and out, with zero temperature and spiralling well below. My classmates and I turned on the little cassette recorder one of the girls had (for learning English and listening to the Voice of America of course), we picked up the stools as dancing partners and started twirling around the small dorm room. My very first lessons of social and ballroom dancing had begun.
In 1984, I went to Nanjing University for a postgraduate course. It was one of the happiest times of my life in China, where I met new, open-minded people, I learnt new things and I danced many nights away! It was a time when ballroom dancing was at its peak in a recently open-door China, and I was the dancing queen. Incidentally that’s when I first heard of ABBA’s title song too. I fell in love with the song, the band, and dancing, head over heels! You can get a better glimpse of my life back then from my first book The Same Moon.
It was under the same moon when I moved to the UK, and my life path was changed for ever. Still I loved dancing, and I was able to dance more freely and openly. Whenever I started dancing, I forgot the problems and barriers I faced. In a world of energetic rhythms and beats, there were no visa difficulties, no financial troubles, no personal problems big enough to hamper my spirit. I felt liberated, and FREE, a sense I never quite felt in my early life, and something I deeply appreciated.
My heart soars when I dance. With ABBA and many other bands and my favourite singers, I could not stop my body, my legs and my hands from shaking, twisting and turning, with a life of their own, a life that is far far away from earth, a heaven, a piece of paradise.
It was in a salsa dancing club in Leeds where I had my first date with my husband. It was where I gave my heart to a dear man, with beautiful, sexy latin music, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, J Lo and others. I fell in love when I was least expecting it.
When I was a struggling student in Glasgow, to make ends meet and to pay for my fees, I taught British Chinese children folk dances, using fans and silk scarves. My dancing skill came to my rescue when I needed it. The best part, was when these children performed my choreographed Chinese dance at the BBC Scotland’s Garden Party, promoting a multicultural society which Glasgow was. A truly rewarding and memorable experience.
Last Friday when I got up in the morning with no work to go to on the day, I put on my compilation of favourite music, starting with Dancing Queen, I started moving my body and I laughed to myself. It’s been a long while since I had felt that way. It was as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and a heavy burden swept away by an unstoppable tide. Happiness and joy descended on me, like an angel with wings. The sheer happiness stayed with me all day, even when I got lost in my car, and when a shop assistant was rude to me. Nothing, I mean nothing wiped the smile off my face. I returned home that afternoon after swimming and shopping, I put my music on again, off I went to the land of the truly free and contented souls, where there was no stress, no distress, no fool, no devil dressed in human clothes. Only gratitude, happiness, relief and reasserted belief in the human capacity for regeneration and renewal, for the blessed life I have been given.
On a practical level, dancing is the best exercise available. Even no longer the owner of a firm twenty-year old gymnast’s body , I am proud to say that I still possess a pair of fine legs that had been with me since I was a teen, without unwanted cellulite to hide. I could still sport a bikini without feeling totally embarrassed about my ageing body.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that dancing is one of the greatest loves of my life, and the most faithful companion, the best. I danced when I was feeling alone and feeling lost. I danced when I was content and happy. I danced at all stages of my life and I will continue to dance. Even when my body becomes frail one day and I am no longer physically capable, my soul will dance, till eternity!