On Saturday night, a friend of mine invited me out with a few of his friends to a club in Mayfair to go dancing. I was told to dress up. I swapped my yoga wear for a black cotton mini dress and my trainers for scuffed silver flats. I smudged eyeshadow on my lids, piled on tons of mascara, used my new favourite lipstick and sprayed on my signature scent. I put on my ‘going out’ jacket and, well, went out. My friends and I took the bus to Oxford Street and walked to New Bond Street and then to a club called Mews. I ordered a vodka and coke and then tried a strong pink vodka-based cocktail called a Mews Berry (which is now My Drink).
I have mild cerebral palsy that affects my gross motor skills: walking, running, balancing, climbing, and other forms of movement. I learned to walk when my brain was still recovering from trauma, which resulted in an abnormal gait pattern. However, people have told me that much of the visibility of my disability goes away when I dance, especially if I dance in a social setting rather than in a dance studio. I took dance classes for many years – and loved it – but struggled with the technicality of the discipline, particularly when it came to balance, stability, and strength. I can chassé but not jeté, chainé but not fouetté. When I dance with my friends or dance for the love of it, my body is different and my dancing changes. My movement is more fluid than it is when I walk and my noticeable limp isn’t noticeable. Dancing for fun and enjoyment creates a moment for me where I am in my element and I feel free and happy, and the insecurity normally present in my physicality goes away. Dancing is a higher order skill that I learned in later childhood (rather than at three or four, the age that most girls are when their mums put them in their first ballet classes), so I can do it with more normalcy than I can walk. I have also been told that much of the abnormality visible in my body goes away when I run which, again, is a higher order skill than walking.
I had lots of fun with my friends on Saturday. I felt good about myself. I had the opportunity to do something I loved. I wasn’t fighting against my body and the limitations of my impairment. I was able to work with my body instead of being angry, sad, and frustrated about what I can’t do. I did something I could do. I am grateful that, even with a physical impairment, I still have the ability to dance. When I let go of my insecurity, self consciousness, and fear, it’s a therapeutic and liberating experience.