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Life with Lavendar in London town

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dance, Dance, Dance!

I was dancing with Dragon in our hallway to, Can't Stop The Feeling, by Justin Timberlake. Dragon was flailing about, wriggling her hips, arms and legs. I was following suit. We were having fun. Dancing with kids is a panacea for what ails you.

I've been thinking about middle aged dancing of late. Mum and Dad dancing have become common cultural phrases. From Ed Balls strutting his stuff on Strictly to Michelle Obama sending herself up on Jimmy Kimmel, dancing after a certain age or period of life segues into old person dancing. While dancing in your teens or twenties is seen as freedom of expression, sexiness, rhythmicality and physicality, dancing in your late thirties and beyond can be regarded as a bit frumpy, a bit uncool. It might feel the same for you, the person dancing, but there is cultural shift in how your moves are viewed.  Who is judging you? Twenty year olds? Your children? Other adults? I don't know. Yet us 'oldies' still keep at it. At Dragon's school, myself and some other parents are attending a street dance class together in en masse expression of mumanddad dancing. We will shake the rafters and bring down the house. You can stare but we just don't care!

Recently a friend mentioned her discomfort at seeing seventy-one year old Lesley Joseph perform on Strictly Come Dancing.

Why were you uncomfortable? I asked. Was she not very good?

She was very good. It's just weird seeing a 70 year old dancing sexily. It made me uncomfortable. I don't know why. We'll all get there one day.

Is it because she was dancing in a twenty year old 'sexy' way rather than a seventy year old 'sexy' way?

Which begs the question - what does a seventy year old dancing sexily look like? Should it look any different to a twenty year old ? Why are the same dance moves that are acceptable at twenty not at seventy? Or are we just not used to seeing it on a seventy year old body?

I think about this because I am someone who dances. I do wonder now in my forties whether I should be pulling the same moves as I did in my twenties. Ageism surrounds dance. Yet the boundaries around dance are socially constructed. So why is ageing discriminated against in the free dance arena? The fact that we can move at all should be celebrated.

Dancing, for me, irrespective of age, has usually been a direct connection to joy. A symbiotic expression of musicality, sensuality, personality and sinuosity. As we age, our experiences of these qualities become more profound. You would think that this would be reflected in the way we boogie. That our dancing becomes enriched with experience and age. Not defiled and mocked because of it. Let's be honest. To be able to move to music when your joints ache and muscles strain is a triumph.

As Justin sings:

I got this feeling, inside my bones. It goes electric, wavy, when I switch it on.

Keep it switched on people. Don't turn it off.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

No Man's Land

I have a list of performers I would like to see before they die. Maybe this is just presumptuous. Perhaps I will die before Bob Dylan or Tina Turner but irrespective of who carks it first, there are performers I wish my living flesh to bear witness to. Onstage.

Ian McKellen is one such performer. I first saw him play a South African squillionaire in Six Degrees of Separation; one of my favorite movies.  Ever after he was an actor I followed from Gods and Monsters to Richard III to, of course, Gandalf.  Talk about being born to play a part.

Love that Gandalf stare

When it was announced that he was partnering with Patrick Stewart for the play, No Man's Land at the Wyndham Theatre, I whooped. Then made my way like a bat out of hell (excuse the Meatloaf lyric) to the nearest computer to get me some tickets.

Much poorer after said ticket purchase, I decided to not read anything about the play, so as to have a completely fresh experience on the night.

When we arrived at the theatre, I was so excited I sat in the wrong seat. Once corrected, I chatted to my companions how great it was to be so close to the stage. We were two rows from the front so would see every wrinkle, every sweat bead. We would see the acting.  I perused the programme and began to regret not reading about the play beforehand.  It seemed that this Pinter play was the type that likes to mess with your mind.

The curtain rose and there they were. Two old men. It crossed my mind that if I was a man, I would like to age as well as these two have. McKellen was in full flight as Spooner, the man who in the course of the play would mess with the mind of Hirst, Patrick Stewart's character.  During the first act, I managed to keep up with the dialogue that was flying about between the two of them; both playing drunk characters getting progressively drunker. They must have been very good because I started feeling a little drunk myself. The venue was warm. It was the first time all day I had sat down and relaxed. And then a terrible thing happened.

I started to fall asleep.

My eyelids drooped. Ian and Patrick disappeared from sight.

Noooo. I urged myself. Keep awake.

Doggedly I forced myself to affect a Clockwork Orange-esque wide eye stare. Eyes on Ian. Eyes on Patrick.

I did this

You cannot fall asleep so close to the front.
The actors will see you. 
Ian McKellen will think you hate his acting.
Who pays £70 to go to the theatre to fall asleep?

I managed to stay awake through the first act.  But as the surreal plot unwound during the second act, I felt my traitor eyelids drooping. This time there was no fighting it. I might as well have been shot in the bum by a tranquilizer gun. I was out for the count.

Remarkably, I do remember seeing this bit 

The Husband kept nudging me in the ribs.

Patrick Stewart is looking at you, he whispered, more loudly than was necessary. Wake up!

Mortification is not an emotion I often feel at the theatre. But falling asleep during No Man's Land with such fine actors are performing at a hairs breadth in front of me was exactly that.


During the curtain call I clapped so enthusiastically my palms stung. No-one clapped harder than me. I was awake by this time and was impressed to see McKellen completely transform out of character as soon as the play ended. Just as obviously as if he was taking off a jacket. It was transfixing.

Too little, too late?

Not really. It was worth it.