It's nearly three years since I went to see Project O dance a piece called O. This sparked a chain of events that has included me becoming a dancer. I always did dance, at clubs and around my flat, but things are different now. I have worked with choreographers and I've been part of a show, I have been welcomed into dance community in London, I have been in a film, I have been commissioned to make pieces, I've been to classes, I've been reviewed in the blimmin' Guardian.
Dance is now a big part of my life. By this I mean that at nearly 48 I am really getting to know my body and understand more about how it is a means of expression and feeling. I'm making space for this through thought and action. I'm annoyed that it has taken so long! Hopefully I have plenty of time left to refine what I'm learning.
I go to the studio regularly and it's exciting every time. Fat people are so used to being surveilled that being in a space where you can experiment with movement without being overlooked or judged, in complete privacy, feels like absolute freedom.
I've been making little digital timelapse films of some of these sessions, they condense a three hour stretch into 20 seconds or so. I edited some of them together into a short film. Even though it verges on comedy and I'm trying to challenge the idea that fat people dancing must always be the joke of the century, I really love seeing us zip around so quickly. The short film gives you some idea of what might happen when I spend time in a dance studio. It is fun, funny, and there's a lot of other stuff going on too.
By the way, I always come away from a session thinking that I hardly moved, but then I see the timelapse and recognise that there is a great deal of movement. I suspect this is one of the ways in which I have internalised fatphobia: the erroneous belief that thin dancers move dynamically and constantly, fat dancers do not.
One of the pieces that my partner and I have been developing is a dance called But Is It Healthy? This is the question that people always ask whenever I talk about fat stuff in public. Sometimes I place bets with friends and colleagues about whether it will be the first question.
When people ask me if fat is healthy or not, they are looking for a yes or no answer, and they expect someone to have that answer, which they believe is based in expert scientific research. But it is an impossible question to answer, not least because fat people are a diverse group, health is constructed in myriad ways, and expert science is not incontrovertible.
I have become sick of this question. Whilst I cannot control who asks it, I can make choices in how I answer. So now I have a dance that I can do whenever it arises, and this feels a lot more satisfying.
I will be dancing a longer version of But Is It Healthy? at The Wellcome Collection's Obesity gallery, part of their permanent display. I have many things to say about this space, but more about that some other time. The dance will be supported by a lecture, original music and a zine. More details coming soon.
Wellcome Collection Friday Late Spectacular: Body Language
Friday 4 November 2016