I love dance. I absolutely love it. I am amazed by the ability of people to feel rhythm and move their bodies while present in the moment. Dancing can be a carefully constructed piece of choreography and planning, or it can simply be an act of joyful individual expression.

I love dance. But I never do it.

From the sidelines, the back stalls, and safely removed as a spectator, I feel more comfortable looking in, or rather looking at, people who are more confident, more courageous, an undoubtedly more in the world than I am. To me, these people are a fascinating and the stuff of envy because they can do something I can’t bring myself to do. And what they do is magical, beautiful and enjoyable. They seek a desire for harmless pleasure while celebrating music, lyrics, and beats; they dance in response. Why don’t I dance? What am I afraid of?

When I met Alan Young early in 2015 he spoke about his inspiration behind his new paintings and directed me to an article by the very talented, and sadly late, disability activist Stella Young. Her article is titled Dancing like everyone’s watching and is a candid and unashamed insight into her experience of dancing in her wheelchair, and brings attention to other people’s alarming reactions to her doing so. I read the article with as much admiration for Stella Young as I have for everyone else who has the need and ability to dance. Stella was doing something incredibly expressive and wonderfully human, yet there were misconceived attitudes toward her.

Alan Young has drawn upon that article in relation to the desire to not be defined by a disability, and conceptualise that everyone regardless of mobility has the right to dance. His paintings are certainly indicative of energy, movement, and freedom of the self. His compositions and bold use of colour are at times enhanced by text, other times left to figures alone; bodies in motion in a state of joy and release of inhibition. His works are uniquely evocative, complex and rich with meaning.

Dance Like Everyone Is Watching is a cohesive exhibition that explores dance, music, fun and individual expression. With titles such as Cool People, Fluroescent, Floating, and Feeding Off, Young is reminding us of the liberation of people and place united in the act of dance. The place could be the Saturday nightclub dance floor or the backyard on a Wednesday afternoon. The people could be the friends or family, or the unacquainted dancers enjoying the moment, and the song. Whatever the circumstance, Dance Like Everyone Is Watching, is a body of work by an accomplished artist celebrating a common desire while challenging public perceptions around stigmas toward disability that sporadically surface.

Alan is an achiever and an inspiration. He won the Bay of Fires Art Prize in 2012 and has been a finalist in numerous art prizes including the Paddington, Hobart City, Glover, Fisher’s Ghost, and Lloyd Rees Art Prizes to name a few. His work is represented at MONA in Hobart, Devonport Regional Art Gallery, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Featured in a number of private collections, Young is a career artist that speaks volumes and is thriving.

I see his work in paint and admire his practice, his composition, and his eye. Like dancing, I love painting. But I never do it.

What am I afraid of? Maybe I am afraid of similar things that most people are; critique, scrutiny, opinion, or judgement. Stella Young concluded her article by saying ‘It’s my body. I will bloody well dance if I want to’ – that is self-expression that we could all learn a thing or two from. In fact, as I look over Alan Young’s paintings again, I might just have a little dance myself.