Sunday, March 23, 2014
How to Dance Like Nobody's Watching
If ever there was an event that The London Escapist was born to attend, it must be an impromptu silent disco on a sunny Monday lunch-time on Hampstead Heath.
It began with an all-staff email from a colleague in a completely different department, who, brilliantly, had taken it upon herself to arrange a half-hour headphone disco a couple of minutes from our office (I'd never met her, but on reading her email, I knew we'd get on).
It ended in reluctantly dragging myself back to my desk at 1:45pm, with my endorphins pumping and Spice Up Your Life still ringing in my ears.
How did eight sober women rock up to Hampstead Heath and switch from professional charity workers to mad dancing hippies, in a matter of seconds? All you need, it turns out, is an open mind and a pair of headphones.
After dumping our handbags in the middle of the circle (some things never change), and cranking out a few bars of Salt 'n' Pepa's Push It, I was shocked by how unselfconscious I actually felt bopping away in public, even as bemused pensioners and their dogs looked on curiously, while colleagues ate their sandwiches on the grass.
There is something wildly liberating about behaving like a madman in the middle of the working day; throwing your inhibitions to the wind and reclaiming your Monday from the constraints of routine.
And, wonderfully, our little party brought together people from all over our organisation - girls from labs, operations and comms who may never otherwise have hung out. (For some reason, the boys of the office were less keen). Once you've seen each other's moves in the cold light of day, there's really no going back to polite nods over the kettle.
I pretty much just forgot where I was. The mid-March sun was warm on our faces, a dewy breeze in the air, and if you closed your eyes and cranked your music up, you could almost imagine yourself to be at a beach party or a festival.
The spell was occasionally broken when I realised I was being filmed on someone's iPhone. I froze in the middle of my twerking, suddenly aware my moves may be less Beyonce and more akin to interpretative dance in the unforgiving glare of the video phone. And worse, it's easy to forget that those around you can hear you mumble-singing the last word of every line ('annwennanightfalls, myonelyeart CAAALLS').
But the fun factor was worth the stares, and it was far more difficult to stop dancing than to start. Our fleeting moment of free-spirited escapism ended as abruptly as it began, and soon it was time to head back to our desks.
This wasn't the first time I've spent a surreal lunchtime dancing with colleagues; some of you may remember my well-documented visit to the Lunchtime Disco at Drink Shop Do, an event which has since paved the way for the 'Morning Glory' breakfast rave (which I'm yet to try out). And of course, silent discos and flash mobs are ten-a-penny in London these days.
But unlike these examples, our own effort was no slick operation. It was something altogether more spontaneous, grassroots and unofficial. There were only eight of us, for starters, and we each just listened to our own music from our phones, everyone dancing to their own beats (although with a bit of pre-planning, you could sync up your Spotify playlists). Literally anyone could arrange something similar, if they had the will or the inclination.
And I hope they do. Londoners, take note. The park is your dancefloor, and it's free! How about we make this the summer of the pop-up daytime disco?
(No? Just me? Ah...)