Escape your convenience zone: I only dance when drunk or alone. Can I encounter my fears and shimmy sober? | Dance

We’re all programmed to dance, says Janette Manrara. “Babies simply cannot wander, they just cannot communicate, but put a song on and they begin to wobble.” A single of the first items she did, rising up in a Cuban family members in Miami, was to stand on her dad’s feet when he danced salsa.

You are going to possibly know Manrara from her purpose as a qualified dancer on Strictly Appear Dancing, and from presenting its companion exhibit, It Requires Two. She’s the true offer, and she’s likely to teach me how to dance.

Someplace inside of me, I know what she implies about becoming programmed. Songs is important to me, and when it’s the correct sort of music I experience the urge to shift to it. But I have not progressed considerably past the wobble phase. I have under no circumstances truly felt fully at ease – even at simplicity – on the dancefloor. The odds aren’t just stacked in my favour: I’m a gangly, introverted, English, now 56-year-old bloke – maybe it is Ok to throw in the towel on this just one and settle for my spot as a wilting wallflower.

But the problem is fewer about the form or age of my system, more about what’s heading on within my head. It is about self-consciousness and self-assurance, much too a great deal and as well minor, respectively. I love dancing, but I stress about how I glance when I do it, and what other persons are considering. That’s why I commonly only do it when I am drunk. Or on my very own. Generally both of those, essentially.

And suitable now, I’m neither. It’s midday, we’re in a vivid dance studio in Fulham, west London, and it’s scaring the hell out of me. There are mirrors all along a single wall – which is not going to help the self-consciousness. It is also a regular reminder of how un-by itself I am. It is not even just me and Manrara – Lucy from BBC publicity is below, and so is David the Guardian photographer, with all his stuff. “Forget he’s below,” suggests Manrara. “Dancing is not about demonstrating off, it is about feeling a sure way, and as before long as you realise that you are not carrying out it for anyone else except for you, you will appear good dancing, and enjoy it.”

We start out with a very little warm up: shaking, loosening, head-lolling, just after which Manrara claims I appear to have great self-consciousness and I get a celebratory double fist-bump. Now she’s heading to train me the fundamentals of salsa. “Because salsa is the the very least specialized, you really do not have to have to think a lot, as extended as you can stick to the timing.” Aiming not also high, then.

The actions I’m mastering are a lot less like the opposition-common Latin dance moves you see on Strictly, a lot more like anything you may possibly see at a loved ones social gathering in Cuba. I’m pleased with that acquire me to the spouse and children celebration in Cuba. “It’s not a performance,” she claims.

First without audio, she exhibits me: phase forward, back, close toes, phase again, forward, close feet. Now lifting the toes a bit, whoops, no, that way. Future suitable and remaining, legs bent a bit, considerably less stiff, a lot less like a salsa-robotic.

‘Dancing is not about displaying off’ … Sam Wollaston with Janette Manrara. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

What about my arms? I by no means know what to do with my arms. “Imagine you’re enjoying the drums, hands in entrance, elbows out, and your fingers are heading the opposite way to your toes. And transfer the hips.” She wiggles her hips, like a slalom skier. I waggle mine, like a drunk tripping about. The hips really don’t lie. But I think they can wait around baby techniques and all that.

Manrara then places on some salsa music, loud, while not really loud adequate to drown out my inhibitions. Now she’s in entrance of me: “Don’t appear down, or you are going to move on my feet,” she says. Exactly where to appear then? I’m not completely ready for eye contact I settle for in excess of her shoulder.

Ok, fine, it’s not so undesirable. But it’s fairly a specific plan that Manrara has taught me, and I have been ready to comply with. But I also want to be self-confident, you know, just dancing, at a club (not likely, these times, to be trustworthy), at a wedding ceremony, possibly, dad dancing to I Will Survive, Keeping Alive or Thriller.

“There is no ideal or mistaken, it is about letting go. When a tune will come on that you really like, fail to remember who’s close to, it is about you just be Sam. What is your favourite tune?” God, my favourite track, so numerous … “Your favourite design and style of audio, then?” Er, I like a large amount of reggae? She puts on Bob Marley’s Could You Be Cherished and tells me to near my eyes and loosen up.

That – eyes shut – is a superior a person. I’m not in a vivid studio with a popular dancer off the telly and a photographer from a nationwide newspaper, I’m in a seashore bar … Do not let them alter ya, O! Or even rearrange ya! Oh no! And I’m commencing to wobble, in a good way – properly, my way, I don’t treatment if it’s great or not, keep in mind? I however never know what to do with my arms …

“Put them up!” says Manrara. What, in the air? I really don’t think I do that … well, perhaps after, in Ibiza in 1987, but I’m not definitely a “hands in the air” type of guy. So I just wave them all-around a little bit – but then I listen to David clicking away with his camera, and I bear in mind where I am and why I’m in this article, and it form of ruins the minute.

Even now, I get a double substantial 5, and guess what: Manrara says I have acquired organic inside rhythm! Ha! Naturally she tells every person that, but I’m having it.

Anyway, back to the salsa, and she desires to test a person much more point. Recall the action: ahead, back again, shut feet, back again, ahead, near ft, then aspect, side. But now she requires maintain of my fingers … And that is producing me self-mindful all more than all over again. I need to have described the hand procedure I had a couple of months in the past, the fresh new scar It may well come to feel a little bit odd and rough – is that why she’s recoiling in horror? She’s not recoiling in horror, even though – she’s spinning close to! Loosen your grip, she states. I see, to make us fewer twisty, a lot less like a soaked towel becoming wrung out.

She spins yet again, this time far more productively. I’m not going to lie, I’m emotion a tiny little bit happy with myself, not that I had substantially to do with it. It leads to far more congratulations and double high fives. “Own your length!” Manrara tells me. What does that indicate? “That’s not becoming cocky or arrogant or contemplating you’re the ideal when you walk into a area it’s about loving and embracing all of you. Very own it!”

Acquired it: possess my size. And I have to assure to go out and dance a lot more normally. “Because it genuinely is drugs for the soul, and will assistance with self esteem in all facets of your life.” Terrific, I feel which is me treated then. As from currently, no 1 places Sam in the corner.

Janette Manrara hosts the Strictly Occur Dancing Reside Uk Arena Tour, 20 January-13 February.

Tickets are accessible at