Claudia Pritchard: We are all Dancing Queens – given half a chance

Related Topics

R unners make a particular sound. A book of birdsong would describe it as a "thwew, thwew". And across the country flocks of great-crested thwewers are currently pounding the pavements, at all times of day and night, and in all weathers.

It is four weeks to go until the London Marathon, and the training is getting serious. Today, families all over the country will run the Sport Relief Mile, less earnestly. Next stop, the Great Daffodil Run (27 April) – and there are dozens more jogs and sprints to come. But what if you are not built to go 26 miles – or even one? Is the person resistant to traditional sports and athletics condemned to a life of lethargy?

School PE conjures uncomfortable memories for many women, in particular, and fails to ignite the passions of today's schoolgirls. Yet they are regularly promised more, by ministers, of the very thing than turns them off fitness. They put their pumps on grudgingly, if at all, and do not see the point.

Most games and sports are forms of hunting or warfare, however gentrified, and squaring up to rivals has, in the minds of young women, little connection with their obsession with body image. They will fret from an alarmingly early age about their shape and size, but are more likely to see skipping food at midday as a route to the body beautiful than donning the goal-shooter's bib straight afterwards. And this is not because girls are lazier than boys – they are tireless when motivated – they are just not that bothered about winning.

But the unappealing nature of so many sports, to girls, is not their only obstacle. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Schools, has encouraged schools to adopt PE clothing that appeals to girls, such as jogging bottoms. Girls, who are maturing at an earlier age, are often ill at ease in their fast-changing bodies and find some games activities unpleasant. This is not the time to be straddling benches or taking a direct hit on the chest from a netball. No wonder the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation last week found that schoolgirls get more physical activity during their lunchbreak than during PE lessons. Most simply don't enjoy the latter.

What girls do love is dancing. They do it on dance pads, in the kitchen, in front of bathroom mirrors. They do it in the playground – with others, not against them. Play the music and they become not a striker for Man U but a Sugababe. Most can dance instinctively, as boys can kick a ball; they have rhythm, line, and pelvises designed to turn out.

The other day I saw an eight-year-old pole-dancing on the Tube. While most looked on disturbed by this junior display of precocious sexuality, I believe she was artlessly perfecting her bump and grind for the creative pleasure it gave her, and not for the benefit of others.

As little children, it is customary to flit like butterflies in the school hall and prowl like cats, reacting to music. But then, it seems, children become too old for such antics. From now on it is ballet (paid for, out of school time), or nothing. In other cultures, dance is at the heart of social rituals; and it is not always about sex.

Dance is inclusive: the chorus line and the traditional corps de ballet trade on a simple aesthetic phenomenon – 30 people doing the same movements can be magically more impressive than a solo. A classful of little Beyoncés needs every pair of hips and feet – not just those of the sporty girls.

Dancing burns as many calories an hour as basketball and requires no special equipment. You can do it until you drop. It expands the mind and tightens the tush. And the clothes are nice. We should get our girls dancing for exercise. Then we can start on the boys.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions