“Dance like nobody’s watching.”

While walking along Maria Orosa Steet one quiet Friday night, I saw two teeners dancing to disco music — literally dancing in the moonlight.

It was a long weekend and the otherwise busy street was practically deserted. The stores were already closed except for one eatery from which the blasting music was coming from. There were few diners, all of them distracted by the girls who seemed oblivious to the fact that all of us, diners and passers-by, were staring at them.

Honestly, I think they knew. They just did not care. They shimmied, waved their arms, and tossed their heads as I looked on, feeling a mixture of amusement and envy. How I wish I could do just that — dance like no one is watching.

I love to dance, even back when I did not realize that I do.

My mother always gleefully recalls how, at age one, I would be made to stand on a table while Macarena is playing in the radio. Much to their delight, I would willingly wiggle my fat body in odd ways that made all of them laugh. Then, she would often jump to when I was four, when I was made to represent my nursery class in a kiddie pageant. I was painfully shy and I just would not participate as enthusiastically as the other girls did. But when the talent portion came, she would proudly recount, I suddenly shined.  I was dancing as if I forgot about the audience.

In high school, I somehow managed to tame my stage fright and joined the dance troupe. I was not one of the best nor was I one of the popular dancers but I loved being there. The group gave me an outlet to express myself when the spoken word just would not suffice. I found a way to make people see me. I found a way to say, Here I am.

But in junior year I was made to realize that my grades are dropping consistently so I decided, out of desperation, to lighten my extracurricular activities and focus on my school work. Dance troupe was the first to go. Since then, the only connections I have with dancing are waiting for the next Step Up installment and watching old episodes of Dancing with the Stars (but to be honest, sometimes I am just ogling Derek Hough).

Quitting was not a big deal for me then. I thought it was just a hobby. Until I started getting strange cases of tarantism. For example, there was that one time in the supermarket. I was then choosing what brand of shampoo to buy when Thinking Out Loud started playing in the speakers. I swear I wanted to just drop my shopping basket and dance, right then and there. But of course I did not. That would have been disruptive!


This used to happen only rarely but lately, I noticed that I have been being bitten by the dancing bug quite frequently. It happens when I am strolling in the mall. It happens when I am supposed to be studying in the library. It happens when I am in the shower. It happens when I am counting sheep in bed. It happens anytime, anywhere. Every time, I hear a voice that urges me.

Do it. I know you want to do it.

But I tell her, No, what would people say?

That is the problem. It is no longer about quitting so I could focus on studies. I am now quitting because I am afraid of what other people might think. I am afraid that they might not like me dancing. I am afraid that I am not good enough.

But the voice is persistent.

You’re not dancing for them. You’re dancing for yourself.

And I realize that she is right.

I dance not for show. I dance not for pleasing others. Rather, I dance because there is too much music inside of me that somehow has to break free. I dance for myself.

So the next time the dancing bug bits me again, I will drop whatever I am doing and dance. I will just pretend you are not watching.



Author: Aira Mallapre

Aira, a dreamer by day and crammer by night, has been singing out of tune since 1995.

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