It's not that I'm a terrible dancer. If we're measuring on a non-professional scale, excluding anyone who's ever been in The Pussycat Dolls or a member of the Bolshoi Ballet for instance, I've got to be at least average if not above. But when it comes to physical self expression everybody's a bit whakamā, right? Because the terrible thing about dancing is that the overriding pressure to look cool can often take away from the simple joy of music and movement.
Which is why dancing on your own can be such giddy fun.
For years I was forced to clandestinely get down with my bad self in changing cubicles or in the privacy of my own living room. But people, I have found my new spiritual home and it is called No Lights No Lycra.
For those of you not familiar with this relatively recent development in the world of amateur dance, No Lights No Lycra is a basically a disco with no lightshow... or lights of any kind. You turn up, pay $5 and for one hour you can dance in a dark room amongst strangers to a playlist made up of songs that people have requested ahead of time. No instructor. No talking. Just music and mad flailing (if that's what you're into).
When I turned up to my first NLNL session last week I didn't know what to expect. The lady at the door pointed out that the slit of light on the other side of the room was the door to the toilets and this was pretty much the only guidance offered. It was a large space with a low stage on which sat some big speakers.
Initially I felt a bit self-conscious and couldn't help looking around but in the very low light there wasn't much to see. My mum could have been there and I wouldn't have known.
Then the music started and they had me right away. The Ghostbusters Theme song is not a track during which one can maintain an air of sophistication. I mean, probably Audrey Hepburn could have done it but the rest of us are pretty much just going to goof out.
Within seconds the "finger phone" had worked its way into my "choreography". Who you gonna call? Me. Definitely me.
Any scintilla of hope that I might be cool was shimmied off in favour of exagerrated miming of the phrase "I aint afraid of no ghost". It was good to get rid of that early, I think.
Having shuffled off this burden I was completely free and unencumbered by the second track, the grindtastic classic, "Push it" by Salt-N-Pepa.
Did I? Oh yes, I most certainly did. Real good*, in fact.
In my head, my hip wiggling looks a bit like this.
But once you put the arms in the reality it's probably more like this.
Several tracks in I've got completely high off Bonnie Tyler (I need a HERO... and some motherflipping shoulder pads!) so when a Katy Perry song comes on I immediately achieve some kind of transcendent zen-like state and transition into "Full Carlton".
Later on when a classic dance track of the late nineties comes on I actually dance with imaginary glow sticks. Even I am struggling to think of the last time I did anything quite that dorky. The last track of the night is "Poi E" and yes, I have imaginary poi for that one. My imaginary poi skills are actually much more impressive than my real poi skills so I like to dance using those whenever possible.
And before you know it an hour has passed and you're a bit sweaty but otherwise feeling great. Not a gym instructor in sight and the applause at the end was spontaneous and genuine. I never knew exercise could be this enjoyable.
And none of it felt as weird as I thought it might. You know that part in movies where, even though it's not a musical, everyone at the prom simultaneously breaks into a highly choreographed dance number as if that's a completely normal thing to do and no big deal at all? Because all teenagers are only ever a few bars of a Fatboy Slim song away from a flashmob?
No Lights No Lycra is kind of the exact opposite of that. Everyone just does their own thing and pays little if no attention to anyone else and it's blissful and brilliant and now I have to think of a song I want them to play this week.
It's actually a bit like that time I sunbathed topless in Spain (the first time I went there, not that time I got no further than the airport). I was sheepish and worried that everyone would look at me and then, because everyone was doing it, absolutely NO ONE was looking at me (which was a shame for them because, just quietly, my 14 years ago boobs were outstanding). But yeah, all my self-conscious worry disappeared.
So, when was the last time you danced in a completely unselfconscious, unabashed way? What would your ultimate dance track be? (I need suggestions)
*Or "really well" if grammatically incorrect hip hop lyrics irk you too.