Time, once more, to put our best feet forward

It seems only yesterday. I could not take my eyes off her, the beauty of her young countenance, the dark, sallowed, flawless skin, the night-sky black of her eyes, as we furtively side-stepped each other; she looking anywhere but at me, and when she does, inevitably and unavoidably, she blushes which makes her all the more desirable to the then 14-year-old me.
It was the mid-Sixties. The afternoon dance reserved for those not deemed ready for the grown ups’ world. The child/girl before me, an angel on lithe, foal-like limbs. This is how I remember the Sunday afternoons of my 14th year. How I remember the dances.
Abruptly,The Beach Boys cover is over.
The girl with the jet-black mane pouts her lip, silently mouths ‘thank you’ and, before I can ask her to stay for another dance, returns to her friends on the girls’ side of the dancehall.
“Well?’’ asks my friend.
“Well nothin’,” I sigh. “Sure, it’s only dancing’.”
From long before the coming of the comely maidens at Dev’s crossroads — going back to pre-Celtic dawn — to the coming of Riverdance, dancing, in all its many guises and expressions, has been part and parcel of the way we are, since Man first got up on all twos to give thanks to that life-giving Fire in the Sky. Perhaps more so, but not exclusively so, an Irish thing, dance and its rituals form part of all cultures. Man is a social animal, and we need to talk with each other, we need to entertain by singing to each other, and need to congregate and interact by dancing and partying.
Such too are the rituals of courtship, essential to the pursuit of young love. Small wonder, after nearly two years of no gigs, no clubs, no dancing, our young have literally, and metaphorically, gone to town the past weeks, since clubs reopened.
We humans dance for all kinds of reasons – to mourn, to celebrate, to heal, to give thanks, to preserve cultural heritage and treasured legends, to demonstrate physical prowess, to assert individuality, to provoke and, not least, to entertain.
Human beings probably danced even before there was a word for it. Rhythmic bodily movement is instinctive. It connects people, even if unconsciously, to the rhythms of nature. Dance springs from that aforementioned human desire for personal expression and social connection. And it feels good.
Almost anyone can dance, regardless of age or ability. Of course, ability being a key word here. Cue… that bachelor ommadawn uncle of the bride who insists on strutting’ his stuff with every one of his niece’s female friends.
Although the said gent is making a complete horlicks of himself, one doesn’t have to be a contender for Strictly to show a modicum of ability up on the dancefloor.
Globally, pretty much every culture has some sort of inbuilt ‘dance’ . Rhythm naturally affects us. When you hear music you like (or music you hate that still has a pretty catchy beat), your body wants to move in time with the rhythm. You might not break out into a moonwalk, but almost all people will nod their heads or tap their toes unconsciously with the music.
And that’s true even in the womb! Mothers talk about babies kicking around when certain songs come on while more than one academic study has found that babies can detect rhythm in the womb.
Ever it were so simple… Musicians, notably Justin Bieber, have complained about audiences clapping off-beat to their songs. Apparently, finding the beat is not always natural. And that doesn’t even include all those dads on dance floors — this here dad excluded — who look like they’ve never encountered the concept of rhythm.
For a small portion of people, this lack of rhythm has a name: beat deafness, with about three percent of people suffer from such congenital amusia which means they can’t perceive music through either pitch, timing, or rhythm.
Rhythm is the dancer
An even smaller percentage of the amusical are considered “beat deaf.” As in, they cannot find the beat in any form of music. One study found two such beat deaf individuals. Though they could keep time with a metronome, once actual music entered the picture, they were lost.
That said those poor ‘sufferers’ will now be out in droves dancing the night away in the pubs and clubs of the nation.
Despite the Covid free running of such having fallen on deaf ears…

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