Come dancing – or not…

I like dancing – who doesn’t? So, one day after feeling as if I could become footloose on the dance floor again, I enrolled for a ballroom dancing class at the local grammar.A legacy of the Fifties and Sixties was that all of us could rock and roll – and even today if you listen to the original of Honky Tonk, your feel an irresistible urge to do it all over again.Not much use now looking back  on  what  some recall as the good old days. This was in a fabled past when  when  blokes and sheilas went to dance halls, hopefully to find more than a  partner.     Ballrooms were  huge  – so why  then was there a  knot of terrified men gathered near the entrance?

Well, for protection  if nothing else, so there they stood,  a collective of the unabashedly gauche, standing  conveniently close to the loo which they visited often. In front of them  sat an equally innocent array of women seated in rows, waiting, sigh, waiting –  before rising to go  powder their noses.

Some of the men  smoked – more for bravado  than anything else.  We  didn’t drink for the simple reason that there was no alcohol provided.  The men’s collective of  standing would-be dancers, hung in there until it was almost too late – and then  plucked up the courage ask  somebody to dance…

And to think we later made up the Swinging Sixties.

In this century all I wanted to do was brush up on some steps. Swirl to a Strauss waltz once more; foot it with the Foxtrot. Because  somewhere in the late Sixties we had not only deserted traditional  dance  for  rock and roll and then, much later, adopted an individualistic wiggle and shake.

Some of it was sinuous and seductive.  But others flailed in a kind of dance arrhythmia, arms flailing, feet missing the beat. Best to avoid  looking for too long.

And then over time, cultural and musical  tastes changed. The very dance halls in which we took our first steps became as dated as a ballroom dance and despite Come Dancing on our TV screens, were mothballed.  Still the local Grammar remained a loyalist and advertised ‘ballroom dancing’ – so I enrolled.

Talk about being a wallflower – that might have been kinder. Nope, mine was the only enrolment… So Admin asked me if I’d like to try Salsa, which I genuinely thought was a sauce, until they explained otherwise. I opted for something more familiar, a French conversational refresher course, which come to think of it, I need about as much as a Waltz – or Salsa.

Whatever the dance,  I might have been lucky because I remember  my 80-year-old father beating a retreat from a Seniors dance one night because he was one of the few able-bodied men there.

“Damn women” he said  gasping for breath as he clambered into my car. “Kept asking me to dance all  night.”

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.