—You and your husband-to-be fall in love on the dancefloor. The 1980s beat of Fine Young Cannibals, Terence Trent D’Arby, Prince. He is a rare man, a dancer. He can spin and drop to the floor on this knees, gliding back up with effortless ease. A space gathers around him, people abandoning their own dance to get lost in his.
—He learns tap-dancing as a child. Once, on his way home from class, he’s taunted by bullies so he swings his steel-tipped shoes at their heads. They never bother him again.
—We travel to Sicily for a friend’s wedding anniversary party, an evening at a beachside hotel, dress code jeans and white shirts. We eat slabs of brightly coloured icecream cake. We dance, a shifting joy of white. Your friend knows you as the reserved English people you are, but when you dance she is shocked, amazed. Her friends are not what she thought they were.
—For a time your Sicilian friend runs a dance class in village halls. These classes begin to mould your week, frustration at complicated Salsa steps shifting to muscle memory, your legs becoming leaner and stronger. You are the fittest you’ve ever been and the latin beat thuds through your heart.
—At your mother’s wedding, young and old dance together. Your twelve-year-old son surprises you, dancing with comfortable abandon, cool as a Tarantino character in his dark suit, white shirt, pink tie.
—In a break from this particular dance floor, you stand at the bar with your newly acquired step-brother. You don’t remember the conversation, but it was one of the last times you talked to him. If you had known this you would have logged every word. A mere four months later and he’s gone.
—When your son grows up he dances like Jim Morrison, a wilder abandon that inhabits the music. He is his father’s son.
—At the end of your marriage, dancing is the only thing you and your husband still enjoy together.
—While staying at the house of a close friend, her step-daughter and two blond-haired twins come to visit. At breakfast your friend shouts ‘Dance!’ and everyone jumps up to dance around the kitchen to Pharrell Williams’ Happy, dirty cups and crockery and crumbs abandoned to the joy.
—Dance as metaphor: dance like no-one’s watching, dance around the problem, dancing on air, dance to someone else’s tune, dance of death, lead a merry dance, all singing and all dancing, make a song and dance, dance on down, let’s face the music and dance, dancing cheek to cheek, dance the night away. The metaphor of music and movement, telling us how to live.
—June 2008, Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury Festival. Leonard Cohen sings Dance Me to the End of Love and Bird on the Wire. He bows after each song, humbled by the crowd’s love emanating towards him, his unmistakeable uniform of pin-striped suit and hat as distinct as the low husk of his voice. When he sings Hallelujah, you dance with your seven-year-old son, a hold and release of alternate hands, your arms spread wide with each turn as though thanking the gods. Cohen sings sixteen songs in all. Sixteen heartfelt gifts as the setting sun warms the field.
—As a child you watch The Red Shoes on TV, The Nutcracker on stage, and later, Billy Elliot at the cinema. You are spellbound. Energy, grace, the fluid movement of limbs or Elliot’s untidy stomp and spasm. Whatever the bodies are doing they feel the music; feel and respond, feel and respond.
—You love Degas’ Dancers at the Barre, the slender ballerina shapes, the blue green of their netted tutus, one ankle on the barre, slender waist and arm curving into the stretch. Degas believed ‘the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown’ , but he was known as witty but grumpy, with a nasty streak of anti-Semitism. Beauty does not equate with goodness, it seems.
—Now, in 2020, you dance every morning in your bedroom, sometimes in the kitchen too. Latin party anthems, 1970s funk, modern folk, classic pop, Kylie, Stevie Wonder, The Meters, Mumford & Sons, Bill Withers, Cornershop, Fat Boy Slim, Ricky Martin, Sérgi Mendes, Proyecto Uno. You still dance to Prince, you still dance salsa.
—And so you begin the day out of breath, blood coursing, hot with adrenaline and thrumming with joy.
—Then and only then are you ready to think, to eat and drink coffee, to write, and to live.