Fit in my 40s: want to dance like Billie Eilish? There’s an online dance tutorial for that

Zoe Williams
Fit in my 40s: want to dance like Billie Eilish? There’s an online dance tutorial for that. You may be disappointed when you realise you have learned only enough moves for the first verse . Fitness tips: how to get started in online dance

I thought parenting would be all on my terms. I’d curate everything beautiful I’ve read or seen and they’d listen, rapt, while I rolled them all out. In fact, they don’t listen to me at all. I, meanwhile, am obsessed with TikTok. I have no intention of loading my dance skills on to the short-video platform; I’m just explaining why I know surprising things, such as the oeuvre of Ariana Grande, and why I might be interested in an online dance tutorial.

Here’s the thing: dance classes are brilliant, but they’re too mixed-ability. Half the class is MTV-ready in 40 minutes; I’m still looking at my hands trying to find the L-shape for left. It’s humiliating for me, but also annoying for the good ones. The class doesn’t exist – and, yes, I’ve tried a few – that goes slow enough for me. It was only after I’d done an online version of everything else that I realised dance tutorials exist on YouTube.

The god of them all is Matt Steffanina, who’ll walk you through everything from Justin Bieber to hip-hop that I won’t have heard of for, oh, at least another six months. Steffanina sometimes has a sidekick, Tati McQuay, and they do a set. They’re too fast and too good: we did 7 Rings by Ariana Grande, and I hit pause so often that a 19-minute video took me an hour. I couldn’t recommend this as a fitness endeavour, unless you want to improve the muscles needed for scratching your head. But a 12-year-old with physical smarts would have a blast.

Type in “beginner” (bozo) and you’ll meet Carrie Mitchell, doing the routine from Bad Guy by Billie Eilish. She takes things super slow, a lot of repetition, every movement meticulously broken down, like dancing through soup. If you have spent a lot of time wondering how an instructor gets so seamlessly from one foot to the other, this is for you. You have to work it through without music a couple of times, which feels quite otherworldly. All dancing without music is odd, but the way kids do it – gyrating, contracting ribs, narrative signals such as “Here I am pretending to pick up a phone”, and “This is my protective boxing pose, which I do all the time, for no reason” – looks incomprehensible. It does add immeasurably to the satisfaction of doing it with music at the end, though you may be disapppointed when you realise you have learned only enough moves for the first verse.

Related: Fit in my 40s: does military fitness work without the person shouting at you?

Disney does great tutorials for its (magnificent) Descendants films. It’s a whole shadow world where the actors (Dove Cameron, China Anne McClain) and choreographers smash the fourth wall by explaining exactly what every routine is supposed to mean. (“This is me ripping out my heart. I’m making a U shape with my hand because my name is Uma.”) It would be surprising for anyone, of any age, to know all this – and on that basis alone, I urge you to learn it.

What I learned

You can improve your free-styling game by learning a few moves in isolation: an arm wave, twerking, basic shuffle steps, basic hip movements. No, I would never twerk.