Thursday, 26 April 2012

Let's face the music and Dance!

I have catholic tastes in music, I love ska, early 80’s Goth, classical overtures, musical theatre and Buddhist chants. All of these have the added advantage of being easy to dance around to. Yes including classical: have you never marched like a monster to Peer Gynt or swung around the room to Liszt? No? your loss! Buddhist chants you can slowly move from side to side to, mind you the same could be said of most sounds.

However some of the other music I love such as 20’s dance music, big band sounds and fifties R & B pose a dilemma. They are difficult to dance to, you need a partner, you need to actually learn to dance and you have to know how to dance! Quite apart from this there are personal factors, are you fit?  Do you have any aptitude at all?

This post is for those like me. The ones who have the co-ordination of a drunken bumblebee, who have to hold their left hand up to see that the thumb and forefinger form an ‘L’ just to confirm that it is actually left, those who are single and feel guilty at inflicting their cumbersomeness on some poor stranger and those who cannot actually move their hands and feet, at the same time, in any meaningful way. Is this you? If so welcome to the club. No doubt you have spent years like me, propping up the bar watching shimmying slippery eels of couples bounce sway and hop their way around each other . Very entertaining, but you do feel left out and let’s face it: dead jealous.

Sitting out the dance...

Finding myself single and with a bit more time on my hands I finally determined that  even if was a bit rubbish this was becoming a bit ridiculous and I determined to have a go. You cannot go through life only doing things you are naturally good at. At the very least I might master a couple of the group dances. At worst I would at least know that I really can’t dance but have had a bit of exercise. At best I might even enjoy myself.  The next question was what to learn? For my money Salsa and Ceroc have an element of being 'a good place to meet the opposite sex' about them, something that is not my priority. I had attempted Lindy Hop in the past but it hadn’t worked at all. Perhaps because the class was too big and I kept on having to sit it out due to lack of leads.  In retrospect Lindy did not seem to be at all simple, a bit fussy and I was simply bad at it. So I settled, because I am particularly fond of fifties music, on Jive.

The question next was where to go? there are a plethora of classes out there. Location is important, after a day at work travelling across London and back is a trial and exhausting to boot. The risk is that after a particularly hard day it would be too easy to just back out and head home for a plate of pasta in front of The One Show. I also determined to do a small set of classes for beginners and pay up front in order to encourage me to keep on going. Finally and perhaps most usefully I went with my similarly dance phobic friend Ed (thanks Ed!). 

Telegraph Jive.
I took five short classes at Telegraph Jive, it was held upstairs in a pub in an area which was easy for me to get home from at night and was taught by two people I know and like: David and Kezia .It was a small class with friendly people and a relaxed enthusiastic approach. Predictably I did not emerge as a natural dancer and would gripe and grump during the sessions. I also had to deal with a minor operation which resulted in one lesson where, rather than twirling I was staggering around like an inebriated Tinkerbell!   Having persevered though I was much better after this very short course than when I started but perhaps more usefully it removed some of ‘the fear’. Most pertinently I occasionally even started to enjoy it. So for a beginner in South London I cannot recommend these classes highly enough. The pub was quite nice too.

So where does that leave me? Well my friend and I went to Hula Boogie which was great fun, but involved little dancing as I was a bit cowed by the quality of the people there, entirely my fault. I would always recommend Hula Boogie as a good night out with cheap cocktails to anyone though, dancer or not and will pop along again next month. Diamond Jive classes and nights are also held in my local area, I tried their drop in class last Monday and although I’m not really up to scratch at all the people there were friendly and I like the teacher: Frankie. So I  hope to get to make it to more of these.

Bit mystified by the legs here...
Will I ever be able to jive properly? Who knows? It might take, I might be able to try other types of dance, or not. On the other hand it is actually enjoyable and seems to be a scene where most people just want to enjoy themselves and the music. Even this non-dancer has picked up a certain tendency towards aloofness and up-themselvesness in some dancers/scenes.

One of my problems has always been that I often look like I can dance, my soft spot for wide trousers, bandanas, red lippy and retro frocks signals a capability that is absent. It is worth pointing out that many of us spend our time in a dance rich environment, it comes with the territory.  At least if some brave man asks me to dance now at  one of the many dance rich events I attend I can point out that I am a beginner but actually get up and have a go; when you are a ‘can’t dance, won’t dance’ person that is real progress.  So my advice to my fellow ‘two left feeters’ is to give it a try, it can't hurt. xxx


LollyWillowes said...

I hope it goes well for you. I was taught to dance at home and in school and there were always dances...proper go to where I originally come from. My grandmother who had been a dancing mad flapper taught me the Charleston and others...which I couldn't do now to save my life!....but I have always hated the reels and such like, can't abide the amount of people involved and the potential to accidentally take a wrong turn. I always tried my best to avoid those, even slipping out to the loo when one was called so that I wouldn't be coerced into it...we had been taught strict dance room etiquette, no refusals unless the man was drunk or obnoxious, then it had to be done politely and there was to be no standing up with someone else for the same dance. God, it seems a hundred years ago compared to now but that was the 80's! Like another world.
Some folk are just too damn obsessive about it and can make you feel like the devil incarnate if you put a foot..literally...wrong. so I understand your fear as if you want to call it that.

RedlegsinSoho said...

Hi Lolly,I think people used to be taught like you how to dance at home and then it stopped. My gran won dance prizes and my father jives a storm, but in my case and that of many others it never got passed on.
I blame the 1960's generation for just throwing the baby out with the bathwater, again. xxx

Perdita Tinsel said...

My family, half went to classes and learned (it kind of happened naturally, friends taught each other etc') and the other half didn't DO that kinda thing (v. V. V. middle class catholic). I remember being told I was only allowed ballet as a kid, I guess everything else was deemed too sexy hehehe! And that was the early 80s!

Mim said...

I can't dance for toffee, goth two-step aside. I want to dance the Charleston at Burgh Island for my 40th, though, so I really should put some effort into learning.

I think it's great that you're trying something new that isn't naturally your forte.

RedlegsinSoho said...

Now Goth dancing I can do! Burgh Island? how fabulous is that? x

Simone Nadine said...

I have been wanting to learn to jive for a while now, and know the feeling of standing by the bar being secretly or openly jealous of all the surrounding dancers. I think I will pop down to the new Telegraph Jive course tonight! Thank you for all the tips. xx

Mim said...

Someone told me you should try to do something you've always wanted to do for landmark birthdays. I dyed my hair pastel blue for my 30th, and Burgh Island it shall be for my 40th. Not sure yet what I'll do for 50, but I've got lots of time to come up with something!

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