My hands are in the air and I’m breathlessly singing the lyrics to Wham!‘s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’. A bunch of strangers on my laptop screen are doing the same. It’s not even 8am.
I’ve joined Wake Up and Dance, a pre-work Zoom call where strangers “dance like nobody’s watching” for 10 minutes, three mornings a week. Full disclosure: I am watching. But I’m dancing, too. Amid the gallery of bodies, the dominant style can only be described as “excited five-year-old at a wedding.” There’s flailing arms, wobbly spins, the odd mash potato move and a lot of jumping.
It’s completely brilliant.
The class was set up in November 2020 by Claudia Colvin, who discovered the joy of morning dance by accident. One day, she hit play on Spotify while trying to switch off her alarm. 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ filled the room, and she did what any rational person does on hearing a bit of Fiddy: she got up and danced.
“I just felt really, really good,” recalls Colvin, who carried on dancing to the next three songs Spotify served her. “It woke me up, it put me in a good mood, I was a little bit sweaty and very smiley. I didn’t really think of it much, but then I noticed that for the day, my mood was quite elevated.”
Colvin continued her morning ritual and later that month, she advertised the first 30-day ‘Wake Up and Dance’ challenge, inviting people to get involved – and 60 signed up.
It went so well she repeated the challenge in January, this time with a ’30 years in 30 days′ theme, with a song dedicated to each year from 1970 onwards. To her surprise, 120 people from around the world joined this time, all eager to boogie from their living rooms alongside people they’d never met before.
“People really needed it, I think, because January was just such an awful month,” she says. “People loved it, so I just kept going.”
She now runs Wake Up and Dance every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The group have a quick chat, then freestyle to three or four songs, depending on track length. Numbers have dwindled a little since lockdown began to ease, but the regulars are still going strong, with around 12 to 25 joining each session.
My class have clearly got to know each other well. There’s some pre-dance chat about someone’s new haircut, another person’s puppy makes a brief cameo on screen and I’m told that Anna, a regular who usually bops up and down with her baby, couldn’t make it today.
Despite attending dance classes for most of my life, I’m surprisingly nervous about letting go in front of a digital room of new people. I’ve seen the Rainbow Rhythms episode of Peep Show too many times.
But I soon realise this class isn’t about hippy-drippy nonsense, nor showing off your best dance stills. It’s about fun – Colvin has even logged on in her PJs.
“I join in my pyjamas and I really deliberately do that so that people know they can join in their pyjamas too and it’s not something you have to dress up for and show up for in a certain way,” she tells me afterwards.
“I think, especially in December and January, a lot of people were going through depression, and when you have depression, sometimes just getting dressed or getting out of bed is an accomplishment.”
Dance, like any form of exercise, activates feel-good hormones like serotonin, she adds. But while she hopes the sessions can be a mood booster, she is suspicious of any ‘wellness’ exercises grounded in toxic positivity, and invites people to join with their cameras off, if they prefer.
There’s also the option to skip the group call entirely and receive the playlist via email – if dancing alone feels more manageable. “It’s not about always making yourself feel good and ignoring the bad things,” says Colvin. “It’s just about no matter what, trying to find a small moment in joy.”
The Zoom calls are an extension of Colvin’s regular business, Nobody’s Watching, which runs silent discos and other events in London for amateur dancers.
Colvin isn’t a trained dance teacher – just someone who loves a good boogy. She has dyspraxia, and launched her company after struggling to find a class where she fit in. “I always felt really rubbish because I just couldn’t pick up the steps and felt like the awkward person at the back tripping over their own ankles.”
Freestyling is her jam, and she graces the Wake Up and Dance participants with her signature animal moves, which include ‘The Crab’ and ‘The T-Rex’.
“I love making people laugh and making myself laugh,” she says. “I couldn’t really find a space where I could dance in that way and where other people can dance in that way, so that’s why I set up the events.”
Colvin’s mum, who lives in Rome, could never attend her daughter’s in person classes. But since they’ve moved online for the pandemic, the pair have been dancing together through a screen every week. “She’s shown up to every single thing I’ve done,” says Colvin with a smile.
Four songs later, I’m out of breath and beaming from ear to ear. It felt good to rediscover my inner child for the morning, but the effects last much longer – I feel lighter, less stressed, even, throughout the entire working day. Colvin is clearly on to something, but what will happen to her classes as people slowly return to the daily commute?
“I think for freelancers or anyone who works from home, it is a good way to start the day, even post-Covid. I want to find those people and let me know about it,” she says. “I’m one of them, so as long as others want it, I’ll keep doing it.”
Wake Up and Dance in on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays from 7.45am – 8am BST. You can find out more information or sign up to join here.