Tuesday 22 August 2017

Tango and crash: Dessie's dancing comedown

After capturing the hearts of a nation on DWTS, Tanya Sweeney asks how will Des Cahill adapt to life back in the slow lane after getting the boot?

Sunday night fever: Dessie busts a move with dance partner Karen Byrne
Sunday night fever: Dessie busts a move with dance partner Karen Byrne

Monday morning is a cruel and unforgiving mistress at the best of times, but she probably had a particular brand of misery lined up for Des Cahill this week.

As he headed into the dreaded dance-off against Aoibhin Garrihy on Sunday night's Dancing With The Stars, Cahill and dance partner Karen Byrne simply couldn't stave off defeat. Not even the affections of an entire nation could change the cold, sharp truth: that Dessie Swayze, as he was in his latest incarnation, was not long for the chummy cosiness of the Ardmore Studios set.

The stardust has settled, the glittery spurs have been duly hung up and Cahill is back out in the cold, unforgiving glare of post-hooley life.

Remember the way you felt after Christmas in the first week of January? The sub-zero commute, the daily grind cranking to life again, the Christmas tree festering at the bottom of the street? Well, that.

We, and Dancing With The Stars, will just have to muddle on somehow without him. We'll have to mourn the loss of patented moves like the Dessie Dolphin Swim and the Cahill Mechanic on our own time.

To his credit, he has seen the upside: "I was worried I couldn't have a drink, so I can give it socks now," he told a newspaper earlier this week. There's no doubting that he's gained confidence, twirls and fancy-footed techniques aplenty. Only a fool would think this won't stand him in good stead for the rest of his life.

But what goes up must come down and it begs the questions… after Cahill's epic post-show comedown, what next? What about that adrenalin hangover? How can the man himself come to terms with a bout of post-traumatic dance disorder?

If you've ever had a similar moment of triumph or euphoria, you'll be familiar with the drill. Brides, buoyed by excitement and anticipation for months, have long reported on the post-wedding blues. They're married, sure, but they're no longer the centre of attention and the vast expanse of a life without planning, fretting or 'six more sleeps' counting is stretched out ahead.

Marathon runners also come across the finish line to jubilation and heart-warming scenes of triumph. But what about afterwards, when there's no race to focus on?

Cahill, too, is now a man freshly out of missions. Up until recently, his days were likely filled with picking out waistcoats and glitzy trousers (tight, or tighter?), and learning how to spin Karen around a dance floor without inflicting serious injury. He's been the lovable uncle of the other contestants.

But now, in this period of readjustment, how can Des beat the post-party blues?

Margaret McAuliffe knows a thing or two about hanging up her spurs. The one-time competitive Irish dancer has drawn on her 18 years of experience for a new play, The Humours Of Bandon, that's currently showing at Bewley's Theatre.

Still, she says, bowing out of competitive dancing at 23 wasn't easy… and she knows the exact antidote that Des needs.

"When I left dancing, I went away travelling to South East Asia and that definitely helped to ease the transition into post-dance life," she says. "If I was sitting at home in Malahide night-in, night-out, it might have been very different.

"I do remember coming home from my travels and I worked in an office for a year to save for drama school, and it definitely felt like something was missing from my life," she adds.

"I went out to Dance House one evening to take a dance class and it was like muscle memory for my soul. I realised how much I missed it. So maybe when it comes to Dessie and dancing, this could only be the start of something great.

"He'll definitely feel the post-show blues, but if he takes a bit of stock, books himself into a hotel, enjoys a bit of pampering and then comes back for a couple of adult dance classes, it could be great for him."

Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Owen Connolly (counsellor.ie) notes that those who have coasted on pure adrenaline for any stretch of time will eventually hit a proverbial wall.

"I recall from my own experiences in the musical society - you put on a wonderful show and then the week afterwards you feel totally shocked and a little depressed," he says. "There's a theory that we have a limited amount of chemical production in our body and we use it all up during this time. The body has to recover from that to build up adrenaline all over again.

"People should really prepare themselves for the idea that after a period of excitement, there is going to be a cooling down situation and it's perfectly normal to slow down."

And, says Connolly, Des might consider leaning on his new-found friends in the show to help him readjust to post-show life.

"He should definitely take a little step back and meet with people who have gone through a similar experience and talk it through with them," he suggests.

And perhaps, says McAuliffe, the time is nigh for Des to administer a hearty pat on the back: "Let's be fair, it's all about the journey and Des nailed the journey," she says.

"It'll be a great chapter in his memoirs and one we all played a part in, too."

Irish Independent

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