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Thursday 18 September 2014

Hoping against hope that I can dance out of my corner

Published 21/06/2011 | 15:07

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■ I'm hoping my own personal Johnnie will find me at the wedding and prove to the world my dancing skills are as real as my goalkeeping brilliance.

I RECEIVED a gentle reminder at the weekend that we have a wedding to attend in August. It was one of those out-of-the-blue memory joggers that the other halves tend to drop on you just as you've settled in nicely for the second-half of a match on the telly. In my case the news arrived at half-time in the Tipperary v. Clare hurling clash in Limerick.

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The very mention of an impending wedding fills me with dread and terror. It's not this wedding in particular; in fact, I'm looking forward to seeing my good friends Kevin and Orla finally tying the knot. It feels like they announced their date back around 1987 but they tell me it's only 18 months ago.

No, the dread and terror has arrived due to one aspect of the wedding from which I know there is no escape. It is an activity that takes place at every wedding, party, shindig and hula in the world and for the past decade it has never failed to fill me with a sense of hurt and loss. It is the awful carry-on that is dancing.

Dancing is a sport (sort of) and it was as a sport that I first really encountered it.

When myself and my good friend at the time, Pat Foley, enrolled in the local Irish Dancing classes my story really began.

For weeks we knuckled down and learnt the moves, the twirling, the toe-stepping, the rigid upper body posture, and with the constant encouragement and support from our mentors we began to feel like we really had something here.

Not even the sympathetic bronze medal for being the only two males from the village who chose to make utter fools of themselves at a public display could change our minds about our blossoming talent.

There is a lesson here for all parents and teachers. Never mislead a youngster into thinking that he is better than he actually is. Looking back now I would have dearly loved some kind soul to tell me, 'listen son, you have as much rhythm as a fire extinguisher'.

At least then, after the tears and the pain, I could have concentrated on something that I was good at and not squandered a lifetime of weekends gyrating like a fool on the dance floors of west Wicklow.

Once I began secondary school my flirtation with our native dancing was well and truly over for many reasons, but most of them related to personal safety. It was now around the start of the 1990s and a powerful force was starting to take over the world and that was dance music.

Like all teenage boys I became a regular at local discos. For a time Jacob's bar in Knockananna held their own weekly discos that brought hundreds of people from miles around.

One night the D.J. announced that he would hold a dancing competition after the next slow set and my friends encouraged me to enter, telling me I had the 'moves'.

After the smooching ended I found myself on the dance floor with several hard-noses from Hacketstown hoping to win the 20 pounds prize, my cool friend Simon and umpteen lumberjacks from the hills who rather than actually dancing, tended to have fits on the dance floor.

To the sounds of 2 Unlimited and MC Hammer we manoeuvred our way around the floor and after each song the D.J. would cull the group. I was doing my thing and imagining myself being given a starring role in the next Michael Jackson video when, to my utter dismay, I missed the final cut.

Blaming my failure on the buffoon of a D.J., I then moved on to the Tinahely discos. Week after week I would strut my stuff as gangs of youths went to war all around me and I soon earned the nickname of 'Rubberman' thanks to the elastic quality in my joints.

At every event in the locality I would be making my moves. Whether it be a 21st, a christening, the annual graveyard mass, it didn't matter, when I danced I felt like a God. The music seemed to be written for me and looking around at all the other people dancing it seemed obvious that I was the best dancer ever.

Slowly I progressed to nightclubs and once I was described as a 'funky dancer'. Sadly I failed to see the naked sarcasm in that comment and allowed myself ride the crest of that wave for several years.

You see I was the guy on the dance floor who gets up first and starts to boogie like he is expressing himself or some such nonsense. I'm the guy who makes shapes with his hands, rolls his head in apparent ecstasy and does that weird running on the spot thing. I was an utter buffoon but unfortunately I didn't know it. That was until I attended a very important work function with my now wife. That was when my house of dancing cards finally came crashing down.

Being nervous about meeting these banking people, I allowed myself slightly more alcohol than normal. And as the night was going along swimmingly I decided to make a more significant impression by taking to the near-empty dance floor and strutting my stuff, introduce them to Mr. Funky Dancer if you like.

Off I go and I'm in the zone straight away, slipping and sliding, twisting and jerking. Looking back now I wonder how it was that I missed the looks and the nervous glances of strangers or how it didn't occur to me that nobody really wanted to dance with me. I figured they were giving me the vital space I needed to create my beautiful movements.

Then, in a moment I will never forget, a beautiful voice spoke quietly into my drunken ear. It said, 'what are you doing?', to which I replied 'dancing, silly', and then it all became clear, like that moment in Sixth Sense when Bruce Willis' character realises that he is actually dead. Looking into those honest eyes I could see the horrible truth revealed. I had as much rhythm as a fire extinguisher.

Dumbstruck by the cruel words, I staggered helplessly for the toilets. The event was at a plush hotel in Dublin where they have TVs in the loos so, as I struggled to come to terms with the awful truth, I managed to bring myself up to date with developments around the world on Sky News.

The words had been spoken by my now beautiful wife who out of acute embarrassment was forced to intervene to save not only her reputation, but also most probably her job.

From then on I vowed never to dance again, never to taint a dance floor with my cumbersome moves, never to reveal Mr. Funky Dancer to the world.

But like all believers there is a place deep in my mind where I still believe everyone is mistaken.

That maybe I was having an off night in Dublin, it happens you know. And somewhere deep in my mind I hope that at the upcoming wedding of my good friends Kevin and Orla my own personal Johnnie from Dirty Dancing will step from the strobed lighting and extend their hand and say to all my doubters, 'nobody puts Breno in the corner'.

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