Like most men, I love to listen to 80s pop music while doing the housework and the many thousands of hours I’ve invested in vacuuming and mopping and folding fragrant linen has given me the opportunity to become a pretty good dancer.
I can do the Moonwalk on any surface under any conditions, The Running Man with or without arm movements, and The Cabbage Patch while carrying several bags of groceries.
In the comfort of my own home I’ll try any dance and just last night, during a dance session with Reservoir Mum and the boys I was led into a new challenge by my spontaneously twerking two year old Maki.
As we stood side by side, bent at the hips, jutting our asses at the air I thought of two things 1) It’s been a long time since we’ve done a family worming and 2) I need to get Tyson and Maki to that Monday morning dance class ASAP because my boys have not only inherited a natural sense of rhythm but also – going by the madness and intensity on display in our living room – possess the bold live-wire reckless natures needed to take it to the local public, possibly even the world.
The song of choice was Boys Boys Boys by Sabrina and Tyson and Maki were so thrilled at the thought of dance class that they bucked and heaved and shook against their seat restraints, scream-singing in such a passionate way that the Tarago pretty much parked itself just to get rid of us.
We’ve seen three of Tyson’s kinder friends by the time we pass through the swinging doors and I’m a little jittery and excited, thinking this can’t get any better as we walk over the polished floorboards to meet dance instructor, Rachel, but before she even bends down to say, ‘Hello boys’ Tyson and Maki launch themselves into my legs and are holding on like two midget rodeo clowns tackling a snorting bull.
‘They’ll be fine once the music starts,’ I say to Rachel, rolling my eyes dismissively, then stumbling backwards, then rolling my eyes dismissively again. ‘They dance at home all the time… like crazy…’
Several minutes later there are six Mums and a Dad from Tyson’s kindergarten seated around the edge of the hall and lots of enthusiastic greetings but both Maki and Tyson are little boy statues staring solemnly at the line of little dancers standing in front of Rachel. As the music starts and instructions are given I realise that I’m going to have to ease my children into the groove and so I join the line, lift and drop my shoulders, shake out my hands and fingers, dip at the knees a few times and then nod at Rachel, Patrick-Swayze-ready.
I follow the prompts, stretching to the sky, reaching for my toes, bending to the side – amateur stuff – all the while looking over at Tyson and Maki and yelling, ‘Let’s go boys! Hey, look at me! I’m dancing. This is fun!’
I’m pretty sure Rachel’s looking at me encouragingly – but I’m hoping I’m not showing her up. Two Mums are whispering without taking their eyes off me and in the corner of the room there’s a Dad watching me, smiling.
Asthe warm-ups come to a close Maki runs out to join the line and starts doing exactly what I’m doing and knowing that this small triumph will soar to a public display of super-parenting if I can just manage to coerce Tyson out here as well I dance my way over to him – noticing a Mum choking into her hand, probably because she inhaled a peanut – and take him by the hand.
‘You’re the best dancer, Tys. Why don’t you show everyone?’ I say, noting his frown but not too unhappy because it suddenly occurs to me that his refusal to dance means I get more opportunity to unfurl my peacock feathers in front of all the seated peahens, and it’s not too often I get to strut my skills in such a public way. So alright!
It’s as I’m moonwalk-dragging Tyson to the centre of the hall and approaching the line again that I see myself in the full length mirrors and encounter something unsettling. Inside my braincase I am a man possessed with cat-like agility gliding across the floorboards, garnering surprise and admiration and comparisons to Michael Jackson, but in the mirror I look more like a cumbersome dork walking backwards down a steep wet hill.
When I follow Rachel’s lead and put my hands on my hips saying ‘Go Tyson! Go Maki!’ I notice that her smile now looks more sympathetic than encouraging, and even though the Dad in the corner is still watching me his smile is now one of perplexed amusement, as if he’s watching a YouTube video of a cat scrambling out of a bathtub full of water and wondering why it’s been viewed over a million times.
I’m moving my pelvis left and right so certain of the rhythm in my hips but the Mums on the sidelines suddenly have fingernails in urgent need of attention or are studying interesting things on the roof or searching for objects in the farthest recesses of their Tardis-like handbags and – oh my god – the mirror reveals the truth; rather than looking like Michael Jackson or Patrick Swayze at the top of their game, I resemble a car-struck pedestrian attempting to crawl from the road with multiple fractures and a lacerated liver.
I don’t know what’s happening and I want it to stop now but when I push concern for my children aside and attempt to recover my reputation with more concentration and greater effort I only look stupider and quite a bit crazy and so eventually I slink to the boys on the sideline, glancing at the swinging doors for a quick escape but knowing I have to at least see the session out, to encourage Tyson and Maki back next week.
With only five minute left, Rachel gathers the group at one end of the hall and starts releasing one child at a time for a solo performance and as the first tutu-wearing girl hop-dances her way down towards the other end of the hall I realise this is my last chance, today, to free myself of this strange and hopefully temporary dance-paralysis and so I say, ‘Come on boys let’s do hopping. You guys are great hoppers.’
My open hand remains empty as I walk to the group and take my place among them. Tyson and Maki are wrestling and laughing not even watching me. Inside myself I am panic-stricken but I keep my chin up and imagine myself in my living room, surrounded by my family, 80s hits blaring, smiling and free, unrestricted and into it like Billy Eliot or Ellen DeGeneres.
When I approach the front of the line Rachel nods at me wide-eyed like she’s standing in front of an approaching mudslide she has no chance of escaping and this is it – my time to shine.
I’m hopping down the hall, rolling my shoulders but keeping my elbows pinned to my sides, locking my idle leg into a L-shape, squeezing my butt cheeks together hard, all the while screaming ‘Tyson! Maki! Look at Daddy! LOOK AT DADDY!’ so that everyone apart from Maki and Tyson, even the fricken moths on the window sills, are focused entirely on me and it’s only in my last few hops that I am able to slow down and turn to the mirror to see myself as the rest of the world sees me.
I am a bulky block of cheese dressed in a green hoody and oversized jeans and it is only as we’re driving back home that I finally accept the obvious – at the same time that I blame Reservoir Mum for keeping this to herself for so long – I’m a shit dancer.
But hey, that’s only forty years of delusion and I can deal with that as simply as scrolling through my iPhone for a funky tune and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now and after I adjust the rear vision mirror to watch Tyson and Maki terrorising the interior of the Tarago, as we slip back into the 70s for the sultry rhythms and tones of Baccara singing Yes Sir, I can Boogie, I have no choice but to join them because we’ll be back at that dance hall next Monday, decked out and ready to touch our twinkle toes to the floorboards, and even though I may not be any better at dancing, and they may not be any more willing than they were today, I can tell you this man. We will be there!