Ever since I knew how to walk, I’ve been amazed by dancers. Even before my two left feet knew rhythm, my eyes would feast on the glorious lift in Dirty Dancing, wildly energised hip sway in Lambada, and effortless body popping twitch in street dance.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’ve once danced solo to an entire song on an empty Metropolitan line train carriage. Only to be told later that there’re CCTV cameras in London’s oldest underground train!
Swiftly moving on, this weekend I documented the climactic point of Big Dance 2012, the ultimate dance experience as part of the London 2012 Festival. The finale was a culmination of 8 weeks of dance acts in celebration of the Olympic games. So you know this is going to be good.
No, I’m not talking about the Big Dance in Trafalgar Square with over 1,000 dancers. Although I was there I didn’t get any cracking photos, so you can look at it here. And no, I’m not even talking about the death-defying Elizabeth Streb and her team of “extreme action” acrobats on London landmarks.
Instead, I am going to take you to the far southeastern side of the Big Smoke, through a tree-lined path and field into an ancient woodland, a place known as Oxleas Meadows.
Big Dance Walk 2012
Here in the woods, dance artists Thomas Goodwin and Petra Söör worked together with an intergenerational cast of Londoners to present on-site contemporary dance choreographies on this guided tour to explore the meadows. After a grounding exercise to allow a moment for the guided group to settle in, we were encouraged to embark on the journey with our senses wide open.
Just as I was prepared to break into one of my disco dancing routines, the first sign of dance materialised before me. In the open space, soft afternoon light fell upon a beautiful girl. She was smiling at five wide-eyed children who all crouched down in a circle around her, so that only the top of their torsos were visible above the foot-long grass. As if on a cue, the children jumped up in unison and ran towards the girl in the middle. While I cannot remember whether they were chuckling or not, it left me with a lasting impression of a youthful time of happy and carefree spirits.
As we walked on, a group of older people gazing into the sky came into view. As they leaned against the tree trunks and felt the space around them, feelings of peace occupied me.
“You don’t want to be a philistine”
Just as we got settled into our happy place as spectators, we were startled by five people who had initially stood among us but had broken into a series of turns and eventually ran off into the meadow. A good-natured man joked to me then, “I’m just not sure if they are mad or not. Well, you’ve got to appreciate art. Don’t want to be a philistine”.
I get it. At distinct points of our tour, we would come across different dance scenes as though they’re played through a movie projector. Except that it was all happening in 5D: the sights of dancers in nature, sounds of rustling leaves and the wind, smell of the life-giving forest, fresh feeling of dewy air, and movements of the dancers as they ran past us.
I found that the most endearing part of the dance walk was when the children hid behind trees and played Peekaboo with the audience. I would bottle up that innocence and sell it if I could.
Throughout these dance routines, I noticed how they each had one thing in common. The dancers always seemed to reach their hands out to search for something invisible in the air or on the ground. And in their doing so, I could almost see the magnetism that was conjured by their palms, perhaps, to summon the energy of the universe to themselves.
In a roundabout way, maybe it symbolises how each of us are on our individual journeys to search for the deeper reason of why we are all here.
You know it’s the end of the dance when the performers line themselves up for the big wave. Each one of the 18 dancers seemed to be glowing from their dancing in the woods. As they ran off into the distance yet again after bidding farewell, it reminded me of the end of a Sesame Street episode where the children on the show did the same. The Big Dance Walk struck me as a very fluidic and refreshing performance encompassing a childlike essence and feel good factor for whoever made it out into the woods that day.
Dance like no one’s watching…
No matter how old you are, I urge you to feel the muscles in your limbs awaken, move your feet, and rock your body. I urge you to dance and feel rhythm in your life.
The good news is, it ain’t over. More dance events continue into October and most of them are FREE. So get dancing.
“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt and live like it’s heaven on Earth.” ― Mark Twain