Dad dancing. At times the epitome of cringe, the stuff of tipsy Christmas and New Year memories, and post-buffet wedding receptions.
But what if a collection of dads were to be placed on stage, dancing 'contemporary choreography' alongside their dance-trained daughters?
That is the concept behind Dad Dancing, an investigation into father-daughter relationships established by dancers Rosie Heafford, Alexandrina Hemsley and Helena Webb, in collaboration with their non-dance-trained fathers. The project has, after lengthy research and rehearsal, produced scratch performances and most recently workshops (with one upcoming on October 11th), inviting other dads and their children to join in the investigation.
Now in its third year, the project will culminate in a full performance of the same name, running for three weeks at Battersea Arts Centre this October-November.
With my particular interest in encouraging men to dance, I've followed Dad Dancing since its early days - but it was only recently when, stumbling across an article in an old copy of Red magazine, I realised just how vital encouraging the older male to dance is.
In Red's May issue of this year, 40-something journalist and dad Sarfraz Manzoor dedicated his article to the woes of missing - with genuine, wholehearted sadness - the dancing days of his youth. He muses that yes, as a 'grown-up', you can dance at weddings - but that's about it. And if you do, 'the only way to dance is ironically.'
Here it struck me; everything I wrote in the introduction to this article - which I actually began writing last year, but had no way of finishing until now - is in fact a great tragedy. And it is largely we, the cringing offspring, who are to blame. Why must our parents be shamed when attempting to dance with real passion? Why must they be effectively booed off? What is it that makes it all so... embarrassing?
I suppose it may have something to do with the notion of dance as somewhat sexual. It is commonplace for many teens who have experienced 'the talk' with their folks, to dismiss sex as something a parent surely no longer has, and only hope they never have to discuss the topic again. The awkward memory of this conversation can linger, well into their 20s and beyond. But a dancing parent brings their sexuality to the forefront; they draw attention to their body, perhaps moving in ways their child considers unforgiving or uncool. Yet that is when dance is at its most free - which, in essence, is what dance is all about, isn't it?
Manzoor justifies his wish to dance passionately again by adding that the older generation, the parents, the middle-aged - these are the people who deserve to dance most of all. Those who deserve a break. Those who, after a long day at work, driving their kids back and forth, cooking dinner, and doing just about everything else with often little recognition, deserve to simply let it all go.
Perhaps if more dads could access the Dad Dancing project, or at least witness the three dads in action, they would think again when feeling resigned to the hapless 'dad dance' stereotype at the next family do, and just... dance like they used to. Now I'm no saint - I've cringed a time or two when my old man has taken to the floor (sorry Dad). Maybe next time, I'll cut him some slack.
Manzoor continues, most poignantly, with a statement verging on a plea: '... I want to dance like I mean it, with abandon, joy and freedom.' Reading this, I only hope, Manzoor, that one day Dad Dancing becomes even bigger, better-known, and something you too can take part in.
Find out more about Dad Dancing at www.dad-dancing.org