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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

You can dance...if you want to!

I’ve recently been on one of those adults-only holidays that are increasing in popularity.  For the more depraved amongst you, whose thoughts are now filled with visions of wild nights and rampant orgies, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you (and me).  These ‘adults-only’ vacations tend to be populated by those for whom a game of short-mat bowls and a flyer at Bingo represent the epitome of excitement.  As a relative youth, just in my middle age (I will have no sniggering at the back there, I fully intend to live to at least 98) I can watch events unfold with a certain detached (or perhaps semi-detached) air.  It was only whilst I was stomping about to the sounds of a Spanish band murdering Spencer Davies’ ‘Keep on Running’ and watching the convulsions of my fellow dancers that it occurred to me just how excruciating the scene must be for anyone aged under 30.

Its not that we dance any differently now than we did in our younger days, always allowing for a certain loss of flexibility (and, unaccountably, rhythm).  When we were young we had the arrogance of youth and the way we danced was one way of defining our independence from the embarrassing flailings or strict-tempo struttings of our parents.  Now, our children have redefined their dancing so as to be as far removed from our beat-driven twitchings as physically possible and we are now too ‘sad’ to be seen on the dance floor except at family events (where the embarrassment of one’s children is an important rite of passage) or on one of these holidays.

I can vividly remember the first time that I danced ‘in anger’ as it were.  It was an end of summer term school disco at Anglesey Secondary Modern in Clarence Street.  It was my first disco and I suppose I was about 13 or 14 (by which age it seems that most of our current generation have experienced just about everything that life has to offer).  I hung around with a group of similarly inept friends, enjoying the music and desperate to move to it but not really sure how to, or with whom.  Eventually, driven by the urge to dance, I commenced a sort of syncopated embarrassed foot shuffle (if you’ve ever had embarrassed feet, you’ll know what I mean), which, to my amazement, was seized on by my compatriots and we all shuffled, more or less in time to the music, in our boys-only grouping.  Dancing with girls was, of course, a hoped for but entirely unrealistic goal.  In case you think this a little odd, it may help to mention that Anglesey Secondary Modern had separate Boys and Girls entrances to the building (which were pretty rigidly adhered to) along with separate playgrounds for the sexes.  The genders only came together in class and then only to hurl insults at each other.  Any burgeoning relationships always consisted of girls in our class going out with boys from classes two or more years ahead of us.  We were condemned as immature, spotty herberts and consigned to our rhythmic shuffling in the corner of the dance floor.

For reasons that I will never quite understand, Anglesey decided to try to throw the genders together (in a civilised way, of course) by introducing ballroom dancing lessons in the lunch hour.  I find it even more difficult to understand why I attended them given that I was painfully shy and looked like what happens if you don’t eat your greens!  I can only blame raging hormones and an addiction to embarrassment.  As far as I can recall, the content of the session was usually a waltz, a St. Bernard’s Waltz and something energetic like the Gay Gordons.  As I shuffled around the Hall floor, sweaty palmed and heavy footed, my dragooned partner would stare stoically into the middle distance, hoping against hope that this misery would soon end.

So the origins of my dancing technique did not exactly scream of early promise.  Enthusiasm for the music tended to overcome any incipient talent.  Eventually, I decided that the answer might lie with the more professional acquisition of ballroom dancing skills.  I joined a beginners class at Roy and Dorothy Moxon’s School of Dance back in the days when it was situated on the top floor of what appeared to be an industrial building by the side of the old railway crossing in Uxbridge Street.  This unlikely venue was the scene of weekly humiliation for me as I crunched my way over the toes of the team of poor girls retained at the School to partner inept charlies like me.  I never really understood the meaning of ‘seeing fear in their eyes’ until I lurched toward this group of girls at the beginning of each dance like a particularly clumsy but well meaning rhinoceros approaching a herd of tethered gazelle.  Twenty-six weeks later, I could just about master the basics of the waltz, quickstep, cha-cha and jive without causing serious injury or permanent disfigurement, which is a pretty fair testament to the teaching skills of Roy and Dorothy.  Twenty-six plus years later, I’ve forgotten everything I ever knew and I’m back to the embarrassed shuffling in the corner.

I fear that my days as a ‘dancing fool’ will now be limited to venues such as this one where consenting adults can jerk around (and I use the term advisedly) in the company of like minded, and equally physically challenged, compatriots.  Of course, even here I’m frequently driven off the dance floor not only by an outbreak of sequence dancing (what the dickens is a ‘saunter together’?) but also by the now ubiquitous, and almost compulsory, line dancing.  This is a sort of aerobics for the frail and halt, combining the happy discovery that you can cram as many people as possible onto the dance floor (whilst avoiding any embarrassing physical proximity) with the complete removal of any spark of originality.  Believe me, once this well marshalled geriatric juggernaut takes over the area, any independent choreography is quickly stamped out.

At least our ageing antics are spared the pitying glances and scornful remarks of our younger brethren.  We can dance, if we want to, but we must try not to scare the children (or the horses).  If it’s any consolation, just imagine your children, now greying and growing in girth, lurching nostalgically to Fat Boy Slim or an essential mix from Pete Tong.  Revenge is sweet – put another record on the jukebox, feet don’t fail me now!

There's a lot more of this sort of nonsense in Steady Past Your Granny's available at just 99p or equivalent for your Kindle or kindle-friendly e-reader, now.