Well, as you may have guessed from the title, we’ve been ballroom dancing in Wanganui. You may know (or maybe not) that I’m a qualified ballroom and Latin American dance teacher (since 1980) and Jackie is my long suffering dance partner and assistant.
We haven’t done any dancing (other than occasional rock ‘n’ roll at various places that had enough space for us!) for about 6 years so, although its relatively ingrained in me having danced since I was 11, Jackie would no doubt be a bit rusty and I’d have to trawl through the depths of my mind for anything other than the basics and a few variations that came to mind. It would be interesting!
Jackie found the advert in the ‘What’s On’ section of the local free paper: “Dancesport social dance, Sunday March 17th at 7:30pm at the Rock n Roll Club, Victoria Avenue (down the alleyway by State Insurance). Ballroom, New Vogue, Latin, Old Time and social dances”. She was amused at the ‘down the alleyway’ bit, but off we went in the smartest clothes we had (Jackie even had a dress, but sadly only comfortable flat shoes, not ideal for dancing!).
Not sure what to expect, as we ‘went down the alleyway’ we could hear some ballroom music coming from an open doorway, so went up to it to look in. There was quite a big room with a great polished wooden floor, some benches round the sides, a big stage at the end, but not many people. Jackie hesitated, so did I, but then thought ‘let’s go for it’ and walked in. There were three couples and two ladies, in the age range (I have to be careful here in case they read this – we did leave our email address!) 50’s upwards (one of the ladies was proud to tell me she was 82).
They came over full of welcomes, introducing themselves (can only remember William and Anita who gave us their email address) and told us there’s normally many more of them, but being St Patrick’s Day, most of them had gone out celebrating. It turns out they are all competition dancers (and very good they are too), William and Anita winning several NZ competition titles a few years back. Well, this should be good fun then (how much can you remember Jackie? She’s looking a bit flustered now!). It looks like our arrival may have put some structure into their night as they had been just chatting with some music on in the background, so after we’d said our hello’s, heard their lifestories and told them ours (except that I was a teacher – thought I’d hold that back!) on with the music. Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Cha-Cha, Jive, they rattled off one after the other and everyone felt obliged to dance the whole lot, wow it’s a warm night! Well, I have to say, it felt good and Jackie, as usual, followed me into anything, with only the occasional slip up.
I was intrigued what ‘New Vogue’ dancing was and (when they explained I had heard this) that it was the Australian adaptation of our English Old Time dancing. I remember reading (many years ago) that Old Time dancing virtually died out (it’s in intensive care in the UK) and was resurrected by the Australians in a new format. Old Time was a very formal, regimented, precise form of dance that was based on ballet foot positions, with a very upright poise and affected hand and arm movements (remember the Veleta and the Military Two Step?). The Australians revamped it, removed the ballet foot positions and made it much more flowing and relaxed. I told them I didn’t think it had reached the UK, which they confirmed, although it has got as far as the USA apparently.
They were obviously much more into this than modern ballroom and latin and ventured into some of the dances. It’s based on standard rhythms but arranged in a set sequence, so it’s hard to pick up and join in, but we had a go at several (forgotten the names now), with William and Anita occasionally splitting us up to show us. They wanted us to join in these sequence dances, so asked what we knew, throwing various one’s at me. Some I had definitely done before (20+ years ago!), Saunter Reve, Balmoral Blues? Yes, but how do they go now, mmm. What about a Mayfair Quickstep? Yes, they know that one, OK, let’s do that! Oh, hang on, Jackie, ‘do you remember it?’ A quick rehersal at the side of the room and we’re away! Then we did a Veleta (complete with all the Old Time foot positions!) – Jackie has never done this before, but we managed very well. Then the Harry Lime Foxtrot – hang on a minute, I remember this from the 1980’s (my sister Denise will remember this I’m sure, our mum and dad taught it at their dancing school years back and, in my mind I could still hear my mum calling the steps out!) – yes, come on, lets have a go – and we did, Jackie’s such a good follower!
They were running out of ideas now, so I suggested a bit more modern ballroom, what about a Tango, mm, they don’t really do that, but put one on anyway and we all had a go, then I took Anita on the floor for a modern waltz and William took Jackie round. Anita was great, she followed whatever I did beautifully (the man is always ‘in charge’ on the ballroom floor, ladies always ‘following’ whatever he leads) and moved very well. What a pleasure! Apparently Jackie did well too, following him into steps she was unfamiliar with.
We broke for tea and biscuits, swapped a few more stories and then the night was at an end! What a great night!