Dance City Writing


Or why Darren ‘Daz’ Flynn was so reluctant to embrace hip hop dancing


Big Trevor spread over the edges of his seat, his big belly pushed up under the steering wheel:

You cannat?
Got football.

Big Trevor doesn’t look over.

Got football haven’t I?

Fogging the window up with my breath…. haaaaaaaahhh and waiting for him to look over I trace a cock. He looks over. Adults are predictable like that.

It’s before that Darren… we’ll have plenty of time to get you to…

I cut him off:

I’m not going.

He frowns at me and then at my misty penis but he doesn’t say anything as he indicates right…tick tock, tick tock, tick tock and the windscreen wiper is going too because it’s a wet day and the pitch will be ruined for tomorrow’s practice on top of everything else. Brilliant. I’m adding little spurts of spunk now but to be honest it looks more like a tree.

In the back seat Joey breaks off from a squeaky performance of that lame song from that lame musical about that lame witch:

I think I’ll tryyyyy defyiiiing graaavittty and you can’t….It’s not fair, I go to his stupid football training every week and…

My little brother’s voice is lame, because it is high pitched and because he has always got a sinus infection, but also, mainly, because he is lame. Big Trevor knows this too, about my brother being lame, because he doesn’t even look back as he sighs…

Alright Joey, that’s enough.

I haven’t left enough room for hairy balls and Joey is kicking the back of my seat as we lurch up the ramp


And I feel a bit sick because everyone always feels a bit sick in Big Trevor’s car and you would too because its got rubbish suspension and there is this funny smelly tree that hangs from the rear view mirror which is meant to cover up the stink of Big Trevor and the tuna fish sandwiches which he is always eating.

There is one of these squashed sad little sandwiches balanced on his belly now, as he suck suck sucks on his little carton of juice on the fifth floor of the car park where we are parked. Joey has gone to get the ticket because Big Trevor always lets him and like the lame muppet that he absolutely is Joey thinks it’s a big treat. We watch as Joey attempts to moondance to the machine and he does look a bit like Michael Jackson. He does look like him, if Jackson had been properly, you know, black.

It’s all boys.

I stay quiet…

Just boys and it ‘incorporates street and hip hop’

I’m not giving him anything. He ploughs on:

‘With a twist of acrobatics.’ Its meant to be fun.

“Says that on the website too does it” I mutter as we watch Joey shaking his bum at the machine. But this time it’s nothing like Beyonce. Thank goodness.

I don’t mean to say the next bit:

Who’s the teacher?
Who teaches the stupid class?
Oh…she’s called…
Some stupid woman
The teacher’s name is Holly.
Great. Some stupid woman in a leotard and a bun and …
A stupid stupid
Now come on Darren you are going to have to get over
Stupid BITCH.

I punch the door. My fist throbs and my throat feels all tight and I wish I had just kept it in because Trevor is giving me that look. That look I get all the time these days. When I say something that is a bit mad, like what I just said. Adults just look…

I’m not saying that you have to join in
I’m not saying that
Good, because I’m not going to
But Joey has been looking forward to it for ages and he is right, he does sit through your football training every week

And of course Trevor knows this isn’t at all, it’s not even a little bit similar, so he tries another tactic…

Me and Kev went to see the Ballet Boyz once, at the Theatre Royal.

Kev is another key worker at number five. Kev is also quite fat. I imagine Big Trev and Fat Kev in tutus like two ginormous pale elephants.

I preferred The Phantom Menace to be honest. But.

Trev pops the last bit of fishy sandwich in his mouth and has a final suck on his fruits of the forest.

You never know Darren. You might be overcome by the transcendent power of dance.

And then we go to Sports Direct to buy shorts and t’shirts for me and lameboy. I suspect these are for the stupid class but it’s not going to work. I’m not going to join in.


Joey is spinning. He is so excited that he is spinning and spinning and spinning next to the reception desk, making a high pitched whooping noise. I am playing FIFA on my PSP, pretending that I cannot see him and that I do not know him.

Do either of you need a…

It’s not stopped pissing it down for the last two days.

…Need to go.

Properly pissing it right down

….Lads! Because if you do then now would be the time to…

And I can hear it on the big glass windows at the back of the big entrance hall, ratatatat.

And I am silently fuming as I make Ronaldo pass to Rooney because practice has been officially called off and I am wearing, despite the fact that I absolutely won’t be joining in I am wearing my stupid new t’shirt and shorts. This is because on the way here in the car Joey got so excited and so giddy from all the screaming Follow The Yellow Brick Road at the top of his lungs and so sick off the tuna fish sweet sickly smell and that as we went over the Tyne Bridge he vommed all over the beige plastic seats and all our bags and my footie kit and my school uniform. Which I was wearing at the time. And to top it all because of a mix up with the lunch boxes this morning I got Chantelle’s which only had dunkers and satsumas cos that’s all she eats. So I am literally starving.  And itching as well.

“I am literally starving.” I grumble.

I know Darren,
And this stupid…this stupid outfit…
You said, but I am asking you…

I feel my stomach rumble but I don’t lift my eyes as I raise my voice:

And this stupid lame outfit is making me itch
Yes Darren, but do you need to go to the toilet?

Eyes on the screen as I swoop round Beckham.

I’m thirteen, you don’t need to…
I know pal, Joey stop spinning or you are going to chuck up again, I know pal, I’m just…

Up past the centre line, skillfully avoiding a tackle from Walcott

But I am, in case you are at all interested, literally, literally probably going to starve to death
Well what about your lunch, have you eaten everything from your…
I have, I have eaten everything from the incorrect lunchbox.
I could get you a bag of crisps from the café?

I glance into the café. There is a miniscule boy in plimsolls with sticky outty ears and a runny nose. He is sitting with his Mam who also has sticky outty ears and they are sharing a cut up apple. She smoothes down his hair and holds a tissue to his nose. He is definitely coming to the class and Joey will definitely get on with him. Lames.

The Mam looks up and I hadn’t realised I was staring.

My eyes flick quickly back down to the little screen and I just manage to resist a deflection from Giggsy.

Darren, do you want some crisps?
You’re alright.

Because the thing is I am very hungry and I can hear that my stomach is gurgling quite loudly now but I don’t want Trev to think that I can be bought with a multipack bag of cheese and onion.

You sure Darren?
Not like I am going to be doing anything anyway is it.
No but,
I’m just going to be sitting on my arse watching all the little gaylords.
Darren, we have talked about using that…
Yeah alright.

Joey has stopped spinning and is now jumping from foot to foot like his soles are on fire. I see them over the top of the console and I am glad that Dance City is not somewhere that anyone normal is likely to see us. Joey seems like he is going to explode:

When is it going to, going to, going to…
Calm down please Joey, I am sure that Holly will be here to, oh here she…

A woman with pink hair and a nose ring suddenly appears in front of me, she is standing much too close


Her voice is like Kat Slater off ‘Enders and I can smell the fags on her breath

You mus’ be Daz.

I can smell the fags on her breath and her ‘t’s, the way she doesn’t do her ‘t’s is just like…just like…I blink the thought away as she holds up her hand. She holds it up like she thinks we are going to high five. I hate it when adults do that. They shouldn’t just shorten your name without asking. So I correct her:

It’s Darren.

And they can’t just expect that because I am a teenage boy that I am going to high five them so I leave her hanging.

Sorry pet, Darren is just feeling a bit…
He’s just a bit…

And I can’t stand it when Trev does this, when he apologises for me like this, in front of me and so I do not try to stop myself as the words come spilling out of my mouth

My name just is not, just not flipping Daz.
….Bit of a moody so and so isn’t he?

And that’s not, because that is not the special way of speaking, that’s not the special voice that adults use for me at all and instead her ‘t’s are all over the floor and I can’t stop thinking of whose voice that is.

And dis mus be Joe-Joe.

Joey happily high fives. Like the Gaylord lame muppet that he is. And now Trev is high fiving too. Old fat bald Trevor is high fiving pink haired nose ringed probably tattooed Holly enthusiastically and it’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen. Probably Trev fancies her.

Holly raises her voice:

Alrigh’ alrigh’, listen up, we are in dance studio two today, mums an’ dads an’

Her eyes flick to Trev

An’ uvvers we don’ really let adults in. Soz. Treat yourselves to a froffy coffee in da caff and we’ll see you on da’ uvver side.

And she turns and I am transfixed, against my will I am stuck to the spot staring after her as her mop of pinky white hair bobs away up the stairs and I look down at the little screen which is flashing: game over.



The mirrors are back and front of a huge great empty room. So when you look in them it looks like you go on smaller and smaller and smaller to infinity and I am standing centre field looking into these infinity forever mirrors and I am not sure how I got here. I was, well, like I said I was going to wait with the other adults. I was going to definitely do that but at the last minute Trev confiscated my PSP for…

You swore. No games.

And Trev never, I mean, he’s right, that’s the rules but he doesn’t… I am not someone who grown-ups normally bother trying to do the rules with. Normally they just roll their eyes or make out they didn’t hear or pretend that they aren’t in charge of me.

Trev that is… you are being well out of line!
You can have it back after the class.

And I stomp right, before I really have time to think about it I stomp right off after her muttering something sweary under my breath. And now I am here. In the centre of the springy wooden floor dance room surrounded by shrimpy little wannabe Justine Timberlakes who are all at least a head shorter than me.  And they are all convulsing across the floor. And to be honest it is a just massively pathetic, one kid managed to get his arm stuck behind his head before we had properly started and two kids fell over just from hopping on one leg in the warm up and most of them look like they would be better off in a freak show than in a music video and because of this, because standards are so incredibly low my little brother is getting far too much encouragement…

Good work Joey


Nice one JoJo, I wish I could get mine up as far as that


J-dawg that is awesome, aweeeeessssssommmmmme.

And his upturned shiny little face. My baby brother who is smaller and weaker and weirder than me, who still has nightmares and wakes with wee in his bed grins up at this pink haired, this pink haired pale pale skin as the music pounds and the room and  the room and the room spins and I am back in our yellow wall peeling black mould kitchen…looking at that palepaleskin on a wet Tuesday morning four years ago…

The boys are moving diagonally now, thumping, they thump thump thump towards me, with her at the front and I am not… I feel my heart in my chest and my breathing is coming a little bit too fast for me to catch up and I realize that I must look a right. Because they are all moving towards me but I am just standing like this. Standing like this in a class I don’t want to be in and with this pink haired monster I can’t take my eyes off as she thumps towards me.

And as she slidddddes across in her big puffy neon trainers she does this thing with her shoulders, sort of dips them, her legs bent and her body drags sideways and her shoulders follow…

And pop!

Like there is a little electric shock come all the way up her trousers and past her shiny silvery top with white pinky fleshy showing through and its like her whole body lights up and her nose ring flashes and she’s turned again and she … and she is holding him up and she is spinning and he is giggling and his face shiny and bright and so so so…I catch her eye as she turns and turns and turns she she double pops, the second wave goes up her and I feel….

And I am afraid for him, in that moment I am afraid for him up high in her arms too close to the mouldy black yellow ceiling and spinning and I am trying to laugh, I am trying to laugh with her and him but I just feel, because I know what he is like because he has always been, he has always been a puker and she has spun and spun and spun him …

And she is looking back at me and I am completely still, I am completely stock still standing as they sliiiiidddddeee towards me…

And then it happens. There is this moment when you can see it in his eyes, he knows that it is coming and he, his whole body rigid in her hands and darkness…

And the smell of the vomit and the sound of something falling and the thump thump thump “you fuckin fuckin fuckin little moron…look wha’ you fuckin done” because it is it is it is that voice and a scream…

And I am lying on the dancefloor and all these little heads are bobbing over me like the stars when someone gets hit over the head in a cartoon. They dance about and

Shi’, Joey go and get your…your…

And then I blackout.


It’s dark and I am lying on something cold.

It’s my
Of course its not
It is, I shouldna
It’s my fault, I knew he wasn’t, that he didn’t want to come.
Well it was me, it was definitely me wha’ set it ‘im off.

I knew he didn’t want to…

It is cold and dark and I can still hear the thump of the music. But it’s distant.

There is a pause and then Trev says, all at once

ButIthoughtIthoughtI’mabiteasyonhimandmaybeImeantheyare alwayssayingthatheneedsyouknowneedsneedsneeds…

And then, slower

…You aren’t meant to have favourites but….

His voice is a bit muffled, like they are standing a bit away from me and like they are trying for me not to hear. Only I can:

It was me Trev. Honest. I cud see it in ‘is eyes, soon as ‘e come in the studio propa afraid and den,



I open my eyes just a tiny bit and I am watching them talking across the reception through my lashes. I am lying on a bench in the café. Trev must’ve carried me. As if this wasn’t cringey enough.

It wasn’t your fault
Well I dint suppose he jus’ suddenly hate me on sight but I musta dun…
His Mam was, well, she was from the same part of the world as you and she did look a bit like…


I mean not really. But a bit.


And she wasn’t, Joey was little so he doesn’t always remember properly, its all, you know, bit of a blur…but Darren always. He has always protected his little brother and I think since he got. It’s been four years since they got taken off her but he still remembers of course and he has…trouble. Sometimes he has trouble.

Poor Daz

Darren I think, correcting her in my head.

It’s why he only has…its just male key workers with him, because he has trouble trusting…trusting…

And my head and my heart and my whole body is still thumping and I do feel really unwell but I do also really need to get Trev to stop because this is probably the most cringeworthy embarrassing thing that I have ever ever ever… so I lift my head and try to say something. I try to speak. But what comes out is more like a noise. It is a gurgling gloopy blocked up drain noise.


Joey’s little head pops up over mine.


Between his eyebrows is all wrinkly and he isn’t shiny anymore.

You scared me.

He wrinkles up more, like a little prune:

I’m sorry we had to had to had to come to come to the stupid dance class
S’alright Joey
I don’t want to, I don’t want to come any
Don’t you?
No. I hate dancing. I am never going to dance again.

And I can see that he does, in this moment Joey does absolutely mean this.

I allow him a moment of thinking I am going to agree. Cos I’m horrible like that.

Nah Joey. I think we should come next week.
But you’re rubbish!

He claps his hand over his mouth but I just do a little laugh, like a little plug gurgle.

Well then you’ll have to teach me won’t you?


Zoe Cooper is a playwright currently under commission to the Live Theatre in Newcastle and the Old Vic Theatre in London. She is also developing work with Ovalhouse Theatre, and her own company Telltale as well as working on a PhD in playwriting at Newcastle University. She has previously written for Shakespeare’s Globe, Soho Theatre, Theatre503 as well as developing projects at the NT and RSC
Studios. This is her first ever short story.