From “Under the Duvet,” by Marian Keyes

I might have looked as if I was just prancing around a room with ten others but I was actually “activating Kundalini energy flow in my body, creating a safe, sacred space for healing sexuality.” So now for you.

Tuesday night, Temple Bar, SynergyDance — I had no idea what to expect. While talking on the phone beforehand to the teacher, Danielle, she talked of Tantric energy and using dance to release sexuality and bring heightened awareness to mind, body and spirit.

Because of the activating sexuality bit, I thought I’d bring along my husband, Tony, a man who has no time whatsoever for anything even vaguely New Age. He pleaded to be absolved but all I could say was, “You either come with me or you accept I may not be responsible for my actions on the bus home.” He came with me.

Riddled with preconceptions as I am, I had expected the class to be full of outré characters. Au contraire, dear reader. It was an abject lesson in humility. They weren’t part of the crochet-your-own-yogurt crew but perfectly normal-looking women (and one man). Not only that, they were all slim and attractive — something must be doing them good. To try to find out more about the class, I buttonholed one pupil, a woman with the down-to-earth friendliness of an off-duty nurse. “It’s great fun,” she told me, “especially the dancing in the second part. You can let go and make a right fool of yourself.”

Then Danielle arrived — and by the way, what a babe — slender and beautiful, completely relaxed with her body (although if my stomach was that flat and my legs that toned, I’d be completely relaxed with my body too, I thought enviously).

The first hour of the two-hour class involved lying on mats on the floor for a yoga-type visualization. It was actually wonderful. Danielle talked us through a relaxation process starting from the head, working right down the body. The language was lyrical and mystical — much talk of energy, third eyes and golden light radiating from our heart. When she exhorted us to feel the heat in our base chakra, Tony leant over to me and hissed, “Where’s my base chakra?”

“Your bum,” I whispered.

It was blissful and not even the tinkle and clatter of the restaurant kitchen over the road could impinge. “Pass us up dem plates dere, Keith,” a disembodied voice ordered, as I simply snuggled deeper into the golden light.

Then things took a turn for the uninhibited. To release anger and frustration, suddenly we were pounding on the floor and ululating like recently bereaved Algerians. Well, everyone else was. I wasn’t bad at the floor-pounding but let myself down badly at the ululating. Next we were shoving out our legs like we were kicking down a door in Starsky and Hutch. “Out!” we shouted at the top of our voices. “Out! Out!” Regulars did it without a trace of self-consciousness. I got as far as mouthing the word but my uptightness wouldn’t let me actually articulate it.

I was aware too of the silence emanating from Tony beside me. I couldn’t, just couldn’t look at him, then by accident my eye snagged his and we exchanged a flash of mortification so searing it was almost visible.

Then came The Dancing.

This was the bit I’d been dreading. I am Irish, therefore I am inhibited. I don’t even like the bit at Mass where we have to exchange the sign of peace with the person beside us so the thought of “expressing” myself through free-form movement made me break out in a sweat. What if someone saw me?

We began by “being” orangutans, moved on to picking imaginary berries, then discarding them and I have to admit to enduring one of the worst 20 minutes of my life. Woodenly, miserably, I shoved my lumpish, unrhythmic body around the room. On every rotation we passed the clock and I silently begged it to hurry up.

Next we moved on to dancing like the elements, beginning with fire.

“Sparkle like a flame,” Danielle called, waving her arms in a manner that could only be described as flame-like.

I wondered if this would end my marriage but to my great surprise when I snuck a look at Tony he was making like a flame like there was no tomorrow. All the others were giving it loads as well.

“Stay grounded,” Danielle said anxiously and her concern wasn’t misplaced because seconds later, one of the flames (my husband) went careening into the stereo. The next minute, without even missing a beat, he was dipping and flowing like a river. (We’d moved on to water.)

Mid-prance, we passed each other. He twinkled wickedly at me and grinned, “Do you feel like a shag?”

“No,” I replied, “I feel like an eejit.”

However, after a while I kind of got into it. I was never really in danger of flying into the stereo (not like some I could mention) but that terrible, crippling self-consciousness lifted. I honestly think if I went regularly or did one of the day-long workshops I’d manage to give my mortification the slip once and for all. And I got a glimpse of the joy the others were experiencing. By now Tony was shaking his hips like a dervish, while I watched in open admiration. In truth, I hadn’t known he had it in him.

By the time the class ended, I felt that, if you’re interested in alternative spirituality, you’ll probably love SynergyDance. Even if alternative spirituality isn’t your bag (man), you can really enjoy yourself if you leave your cynicism at the door. And your ego too, if you can manage it (I obviously couldn’t). The atmosphere was upbeat and, feel-good and, apart from anything else, it’s a good workout . . .

(Originally published in Image magazine, Dublin, November 1999.)
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