The Lockdown Boogie: Come, Dance with Me
On finding light even on the darkest days in a shimmy and a shake
Every evening, around 7:30 p.m., my phone screen lights up with the same message. "Do you want to dance?" It isn't code, or a bored prankster looking for inroads to "make friendship" with me. I respond by quickly tapping on the buttons to make a video call. The screen fills with the gleeful face of my 10-year-old niece Cyra, waving cheerfully in greeting before getting straight to the point, "Let's practice."
We position ourselves on either side of the screen. She presses a button and music filters through the phone, and both of us kick off a dance routine we have been rehearsing. Transforming my living room into a dance floor is now a regular affair ever since we zeroed in on a positive way to keep Cyra busy when schools closed in February. We enjoyed the collaboration so much that we kept going even when we couldn’t visit each other anymore and soon these dance routines became our lockdown ritual. Other than great exercise and spending time together and bonding, I realized how much the value of our dance sessions resonated, far beyond rehearsal time.
Kids live in the present. Cyra and I may chat about other things during the day, but during practice she ensures we focus on dancing. It forces us to slow down—breaking up a routine step by step, executing and synchronizing each move, ensuring the ‘lefts’ and ‘rights’ translate on screen (they rarely do) and constant repetition. As adults we tend to worry, especially during times of uncertainty, but every time I catch myself stressing out, I think of Cyra and the lockdown boogie. I can deliberate endlessly on what is to come, or I can just take it all one step at a time.
There is no real purpose to our dancing other than having fun but there is also structure and self-set goals of completing a routine and moving on to the next. The choreography is a democratic process—she shimmies, I sashay; she pirouettes, I throw a high kick; she backflips and does a handstand, I stand down and concede defeat. When we’re ready, we record the performance and share it with family and friends. So far, we have completed routines 2, 3 and 4, and are set to record number 5. There is a sense of accomplishment as we build and bring these routines to life. Not everything has to have a purpose other than to simply offer us some joy amidst the mundane and the menacing.
I don’t know if I will ever get this uninterrupted time with Cyra again. When life gradually returns to ‘normal’, we will still see each other most weekends, but these lockdown days, their laughter and silliness, the memories we build together, will stay with us forever. Even on tough days, whenever that message pings, I surrender, and a few minutes later, flushed after an energetic routine, an ordinary day lights up, its glow lingers, and we bask in the brighter side of this lockdown. And it all started with a 10-year-old and her dancing shoes.