It’s Sunday afternoon, the sun is shining, and we need to get out of the house. There’s a dance festival in Zurich, spread across the city, with opportunities to learn to dance as well as watch the experts. What could be better?
‘I don’t want to dance!’ my daughter cries when we reach the city. It’s as if we’ve suggested jumping in a vat of boiling oil instead of learning how to salsa. Her shoulders slumped, she stumps along beside us with a frown on her face, and I can feel the day slipping away from us and we contemplate getting back on the train. But we compromise, agreeing to try just one event with the promise of ice cream at its completion.
And so it is that we find ourselves at the Dance Box, and it’s not what we expected. At all.
It’s a tiny, yellow caravan, with a sign on top. There’s a red lightbulb above the door that glows when the caravan is occupied, and two slots, one for payment of a franc and the other for you to insert the card upon which you’ve ticked the box of your preferred dance.
We wait in line, all of us giggling, laughter erupting when the caravan starts to rock from side to side or the sound of stomping is heard. Each time the red light goes off and the door opens people emerge with big grins on their faces and the rest of us crane our necks to see inside.
Finally, we’re next, and my daughter inserts the coin and the card in their respective slots. The door opens and my husband and daughter climb aboard, because there’s only room for two. But I’m happy just to be there, the whole experience so different to anything else I’ve experienced. The caravan rocks and sways and the whole line laughs and I wish I could hug the person who came up with this idea.
After a few minutes the door opens and they emerge, laughing, their faces lit up with what can only be described as joy. They can’t wait to tell me all about it, about the two tiny chairs for them to sit on, and the dancer who danced without music, who came right up to their faces and swayed and jumped and moved her arms and legs and seemed to take up all the space.
Our afternoon has been transformed and I can see it’s the same for everyone else, too. We lick ice creams as we wander along the river until we reach a playground and my almost-teenage daughter climbs and swings as if the grumpy girl from earlier never even existed.
That an idea so small and simple could be so powerful is a revelation. It’s also inspiring, because it strikes me that this is what the essence of the creative arts should be, something transformative, no matter the size or cost or seriousness or anything else, whether a novel, short story or blog, an orchestra or single voice, an oil painting or pencil sketch, or a whole ballet by a company of people or a single dance by one person.
Such is the power of one dancer, no music, and one very tiny, very yellow caravan.