“The average British male is likely to die younger than at any other point in history,” he concludes, “from heart problems, strokes, diabetes and obesity. It is the dance that people dance to. They dance to the joy that they know they’ll never have in their lives. They dance to the dance with their partner: to the feeling of having someone who cares about them.”
It’s a difficult story to tell. And he says that “one can never tell” from statistics. What is clear, however, is that dance is not so much a “vital cultural resource” as it is a vital economic resource. He says that while many of the world’s greatest dancers still perform “because they can afford it”, today it is more important to have “a proper dance teacher in place”.
The book includes stories like that of a mother working long hours at a dance centre. “My son and his mother danced every day from 6am to 4pm to support them. In the winter they even wore pink shoes to help keep them warm.”
While many men in his generation have never had the same opportunity at dancing, Riggs believes that the “feminisation” of the male profession means that “many will continue to dance.” There are, he concedes, very few women in the business. But he says: “The women who have got into it because they can afford it – they are not alone. It is a way of life for them.”
He is in the process of collecting anecdotes of real “girls with jobs”. The author talks about a “female ballet troupe who, at 22, could perform in a full chorus”, while another “female ballet school” is “run by an older woman with a master’s degree who had been teaching music and dance for years. She had been a full-time teacher for 15 years.” Riggs adds that “many, many more women who were dancers after school and who weren’t earning their living at the time had found more practical purposes in their careers” such as working at a music shop or as a nurse.
The author also has a good view of how women have benefited from the increasing number of female CEOs. “These women have been hired into jobs more often because they offer stability and security. When you look at who has been the most successful, it is female CEOs in a male-dominated industry who have consistently made the moves up the business ladder – from entry-level jobs to top office positions.”
Riggs points out