Sometimes you just need to put on a red dress and go dance in a park. This past weekend I went to Melbourne with my husband, mother-in-law and some friends to join in The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever. This annual celebration of Kate Bush’s iconic red dress dance to her song Wuthering Heights began in the UK in 2013. Now it’s global.
We joined about 2000 Kates of different shapes, sizes, ages and genders to dance to Wuthering Heights. It was a fun day where the absurd felt part of the everyday and we participated in a joyful event that left us with an all-over warm glow. As a man unaccustomed to wearing a dress and having really long hair, there were some things I learnt.
You quickly get over caring what other people think
Admittedly we were in Melbourne, one of Australia’s more accepting and progressive cities, but walking down the street in a red dress, red stockings and a long brown wig takes a bit of getting used to. It was made easier from the fact I was in a group of four – though I was at first terrified I was going to be left behind, due to the fact my knee is still healing and I’m slower than everyone else. But either way, after a few looks, none that I felt were particularly hostile, the extraordinary quickly became ordinary. I only remembered I was wearing the outfit when someone asked what it was for.
Be prepared for questions from strangers
Perhaps because we were so obviously in costume – four people dressed the same with occasionally other similarly dressed people around – non-Kates felt comfortable asking questions. This was fine, and preferable to just blank stares as they tried to figure out what the hell was going on. We were happy to oblige with answers and directed people to the event taking place later in the day. One shop we stopped in (to buy a red shopping trolley of all things) we struck up a conversation with the staff about what we were doing. It did make me wonder whether they’d be quite so jovial if a transvestite were in front of them who was just trying to get on with their day. I hope so.
The Mac store in Myer is a great place to get a bit of free makeup
Shockingly we didn’t bring any red lipstick or green eyeshadow with us. Our friend suggested we go to the make-up counter in one of the department stores for a bit of a make-over. This was a brilliant idea as Jake from the Mac counter offered us the tester lipstick – suitably disinfected – and then proceeded to do our eyes. So friendly (and very cute). We bought lipstick too so we could touch it up later.
For such a simple idea, it really took hold. From 5000 people who RSVPd to the Melbourne event alone, about 2000 came along. I’m sure the organisers never had any idea that it would be so popular. What was probably meant to be a simple gathering quickly became something that needed permits, sound systems, registration tables, food trucks and a bigger venue. I’ve been to concerts with fewer people and much less organised. Kudos to them for putting on such a great event.
There’s nothing like the feeling of community
Yes, the feeling of joy as you (attempt to) dance to a song in unison with others is a great high, especially for such an awesome song, but seeing 2000 people dressed alike for one common goal makes you feel a part of something. Yes, it would be nice if we could harness this for clean up days, for marches for human rights and for any other worthy cause, but sometimes spreading a bit of joy is worthwhile in and of itself. And on the plus side, to assuage a bit of that guilt for doing something so bizarre and – to some – inane, money raised went to Safe Steps Victoria.
You don’t need to be a great dancer to participate
As I said I’m still recovering from a fractured patella. My leg is stiff and I can’t bend it properly. This grated on me because I wanted to participate fully, with twirling and flinging and crouching, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, I did my best. I’m sure half my moves were wrong – and would have been even with a fully functioning leg – but really, who cares. I wasn’t at the front. The cameras – other than my husband’s phone – weren’t on me and I still had a good time. Just having a go, just being there, was so much fun. I looked around at people in normal clothes who were spectating, and was glad I had done this. Seeing one plain-clothed guy join in was further proof that what we were doing was infectious and something worthwhile.
So that’s a few of things I learnt while donning a red dress and dancing to Wuthering Heights with 2000 people. We joined in a couple of practise runs, ate a picnic lunch, then had an official practice followed by two proper run throughs (for the official video) and then that was it. All over so fast, but so worth it.
If you ever get the opportunity to do it, or something similar, do yourself a favour and throw your self-consciousness right out the window. You’ll never know how good it feels until you do it, and there’s nothing worse than regret. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?