It’s a notorious joke that white people can’t dance.
This is a false generalization, and it doesn’t matter at parties anyway. From the multiracial ones I’ve been to, I can tell you that white people, whether they can dance or not, don’t hesitate to take up center stage and move, however they can.
Too many black people are reluctant to take up public space this way (for obvious reasons). Usually, people seem to wait for permission to dance; the “vibe” has to be right. In black circles abroad (and home as well), many people don’t dance unless it’s a safe space or a performance with friends.
The freedom of body movement in public spaces isn’t all about dance though. It’s twirling at the restaurant door, jogging lightly across an empty road, playing the air guitar at a train station. It’s all those little movements that kids do because they’re energetic and nobody cares. But usually, as we age, we get too “adult” for this or too conscious of ourselves.
I‘ve always been restless; quirky movements and public dancing are right up my alley. But between an improving social status, the public unease of being black in Europe and America and the burdensome behavioural expectations of a Nigerian adult male, it no longer feels natural or easy to be weird in public. It takes more of a mental effort these days.
So, this essay is a pat on the back, a reminder to myself to always move my body when I want to, however weird and uncomfortable I might feel at first. Because I always end up feeling great, happy and free.
Earlier this year, I rocked with a 45-year old lady in an Amsterdam club, and she was agile! The festivals I attended this year were littered with so many older white people moving and vibing. This is how we should all age, right?
Well, that’s how I want to, and I’ve distilled this into a life principle: I’m free to take up space for myself, on the street, in the airport or on the dance floor. I play in public; I move like a kid sometimes; I jump when the song says jump.