Thursday, 23 August 2007

Come Dancing

To help take our minds of the possibility of anything going wrong with Jon’s release, Dan and I have taken up a new hobby, ballroom dancing.

Last night was our first class. Being old enough to remember Come Dancing, and as a fan of the more recent Strictly Come Dancing, with yards of satin and sequins, I was unsure of what to wear.
“It’s only a class. It’s not a competition,” Dan said.
“You’re right,” I agreed, choosing a summer skirt and top.
But I did find some silver, strappy, high-heeled sandals I’d not worn for years. Two other couples were supposed to join us, but chickened out. Michael, Dan’s brother-in-law, was sat outside in his car when we arrived.

Dobson’s Dance happens every Tuesday and Wednesday in Birchwood sports pavilion. Beginners 8.00-9.00pm, Intermediates 9.00-10.00pm. Last night was a warm pleasant evening. A game of cricket was nearing its last run on the playing fields. We paid our fees, got a drink from the bar, found a table and chatted with the dance teacher, Ana.
“Danced before, have you?” she asked.
We answered simultaneously “no”, “not really”, “a long time ago”.
“Good,” she said, “It’s better to start from scratch.

Sitting nearby was Clifford, at least seventy, short and stocky, and wearing a toupee. He told us how learning to dance had changed his life. A retired widower, he spends three months of the year dancing in Benidorm, where men who can dance are “like gold”, he said, giving Michael a knowing wink. Michael smiled.

When Ana shouted “everyone to your feet” we nervously hung around the dance floor, until she lined us up to demonstrate the basic steps of the waltz. Luckily for Michael, who’s a widower, there was an attractive unattached woman, the only one, who needed a partner.

One-two, together we repeated over and over glancing down at our feet. Dan kept treading on my toes. He blamed me for not moving my feet far enough back, and I blamed him for taking big steps with his size eleven feet.
“Next week I’m wearing steel toe caps,” I said.

Before the arguing got heated, Ana’s two acolytes, Clifford and Ann, came to the rescue and split us up. Vertically challenged as Clifford may be, holding me firmly in his arms, my feet seemed to glide automatically in the right direction following the firm but gentle lead that’s made him the Don Juan of the Benidorm tea dances.

It was warm in the wooden Pavilion (there’s no air-conditioning in UK – it’s rarely needed). Together with the stress of remembering the steps, sweat became visibly noticeable on the faces, and in some cases underarms and backs, of the would-be dancers. Michael was struggling with the heat. I saw him sit one out fanning himself with a beer mat.

Reunited with Dan, Ana moved us on to the basic quickstep, and we did better with this, getting the hang of the way your feet sort of cross over on every other quick-quick. Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow; slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. In our enthusiasm we swept around the room too quickly bumping into slower, shorter legged, quicksteppers. Ana had to reign us in.

The last dance was the Samba, but three dances were too much for us to take in, so Dan got another drink from the bar and we watched.

The novice dancers ranged from a twenty year old lesbian couple, who only had eyes for each other, to a mix of forty to sixty year old couples. The lesbians wore jeans. A coiffured blonde woman wore a backless chiffon evening dress and satin shoes, but most people wore smart but casual summer wear with various attempts at dance footwear.

Ana, the teacher, was loud and friendly, and constantly made risqué remarks. Worn-out jokes she’d probably used repeatedly with beginners since she started the dancing school twenty years ago. Slightly overweight, but firm from the dancing, she was about sixty, with brown shoulder length hair tied back severely in a bun. She wore no makeup. Her top was a plain black sleeveless vest, but her skirt was made of a soft deep burgundy material that swayed around her legs as she danced. I was most envious of her shoes. Styled like classic ballroom shoes, but the leather was dyed different shades of purple; dark at the heel fading into a lilac towards the toes, infused throughout with a milky way of sparkly gold and silver. I’d never seen shoes like them.

At 9.00pm the intermediates took the floor. They started with a formation dance and moved on to a tango. “Will we be that good in ten weeks?” I thought out loud.
“I doubt if I will.” Michael said. “Do you want a lift home?”
“No, we’ll walk,” I said feeling under the table. “I’ve got flat shoes in a bag somewhere.
“Do you think you’ll be back next week?” Dan asked Michael.
“Oh! Definitely. I’m not sure if I’ve learned anything. But I’m no quitter,” he said mopping his brow.

“I want some shoes like Ana,” I told Dan as we strolled home.

Copyright © 2007 Barbara Attwood

1 comment:

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