Friday, 6 August 2010

Dancing

Reading Jinksy's etheree and watching her wonderful video clip of a tango reminded me of dancing classes at school. It was an all-girls' school. I was educated solely with girls from the age of six to eighteen, sadly. L
Anyway, at the age of eleven we duly went off to the next stage of our state education and at the school I attended dancing was part of the process. We learnt country dancing (Strip the Willow and Sir Roger de Coverley), Old-Tyme dancing (the Veleta and the Military Two-Step), and ballroom dancing (the Cha Cha Cha and the Foxtrot). We galloped sweatily round the gymnasium, enjoying the exercise but not completely enamoured of the particular form of exercise and the brain power required to remember the moves. I would rather have been climbing ropes or vaulting.
One of our PE teachers was a very good ballroom dancer but I'm afraid we callow lasses didn't appreciate that as we watched her spinning skilfully round the hall with her female partner. All the staff members were women - the advent of two male teachers a few years later caused a great buzz of unnecessary enthusiasm. Wet lunchtimes meant we could not go outside and so dancing was arranged in the assembly hall and we always wanted the polka – that was fun!
When I was eleven I was one of the smallest girls in the school. By the time I left I was among the tallest. This meant that in ballroom dancing I had to take the man's part. This played havoc when I actually had to take the woman's part but by the time I started going to village hops and town dances most of the dancing was solo. This was just as well because I was always among the wallflowers until the final, desperate, traditional 'Last Waltz' began when every lout youth in the room homed in on the unloved to claim a dance. Being clammily clasped by an inebriated boy who was keen to boast that he had a girl-friend, however tenuous the relationship might be, was not a dream ending to a night out. I liked dancing, though, particularly on my own! I loved the Charleston but there wasn't much opportunity to dance that. I really enjoyed the Twist.
When we were about fourteen or fifteen the school organised a 'formal' dance and we all dressed up in our finest. My mother made me a very pretty dress and the highlight of the evening was noticing what everyone else was wearing. We were used to seeing each other only in hideous green uniform in the school buildings. We danced together decorously, the bolder girls inviting teachers to partner them. I wonder what those women made of the event? Many of them, though they seemed ancient to us, were probably in their late thirties or early forties and had probably lost fianc├ęs in the war. It must have been bittersweet for them as they twirled around the parquet flooring in the embrace of adolescents, some of whom, in time-honoured manner, had crushes on them.

Joyce Grenfell brilliantly demonstrated the experience of dancing with another woman
When we reached the dizzy heights of the fifth form and were almost adult sixteen-year-olds – or so we thought of ourselves! – our school arranged a joint dance with the boys' grammar school. Oh, the delirious excitement of it all! Some of my contemporaries already had boyfriends at the school so they were paired with them. The rest of us losers were allocated partners, sight unseen. It was nerve-wracking waiting to discover one's escort for the evening and, in the event, mutually disappointing, I'm sure. We gazed enviously at our superior and rather smug sisters who had come with partners they'd chosen for themselves, tried to be polite and longed for the evening to end. I was relieved that my escort was taller than me for I was quite tall (did the teachers take height into account or were we put together alphabetically?) but the dancing was deplorable, on both our parts. He managed to keep his feet off mine, for which I was thankful, and while he wasn't actually counting the beats out loud his movements were somewhat staccato. I don't think the boys had received much dancing instruction but at least they knew they were supposed to be 'leading'. I knew I was supposed to be following but I was so accustomed to taking the lead that I was fighting him for the privilege. At some point there were refreshments but time has mercifully over-ridden all other memories of that evening. Certainly, it was not the stepping-off point to a beautiful friendship.
When the mood takes me these days I dance in the kitchen, on my own, or with a dog or rather surprised cat. Barry doesn't dance if he can avoid it, making an exception only for jiving, which he really enjoys. One of these days he will spin me out and fail to catch me as I return and I'll crash unceremoniously into the wall. No doubt he'll have a camera automatically recording  film the incident!

Unfortunately, we don't dance with anything like the flair of these two.

18 comments:

  1. I went to dancing class as a young wee lass and later as a teenager - achieved 3rd gold bar in modern ballroom & latin american. I love dancing and at my annual birthday bash I always have music on! Hubby isn't a dancer although I did see him once have a "Mud" moment - but I try not to dwell too much on the event! lol! I saw somebody had written "Dance like nobody is watching etc" the other day to which I replied "When I dance people tend to look away anyway!" lol! Sad yet true! But after a couple of drinks do I care?

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  2. Of course not and nor should you! I'm quite sure they don't look away as you're obviously very proficient. Me, I'm as supple as a plank!

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  3. That was exactly the same in Germany ! Boys and girls strictly separated. But we didn't have any dancing classes. Usually at 15 we went into Dance school, not depending from our school but then of course with boys that was the Big Event in boys and girls life !
    I missed this, because just at this time when I turned 15, my parents moved to Brussels and there of course as I didn't speak a word of french they put me in the German school. As they were only 200 students all high school classes together, of course boys and girls were together for the first time ! This too was an experience ! suddenly we thought less of dancing because we were always together anyway. We organized parties at school and had lot of fun. Our teachers were the same, old and bitter even when they were what we call young today in their 30 fortunately not all of them ! But the male teachers had always something missing. An arm, a leg an eye. I saw "entire" man for the first time in my life at the Belgian beach and remember that I found this so strange.
    I laughed so much about your cotton and wool lesson, I think we should tell Thome,lol !

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  4. Hi Jabblog,
    Just a quick one here. Wanted to thank you for stopping by to visit and for the kind words. I *so* appreciate it...glad to be back. Hugs. Sistertex

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  5. Ah what lovely memories Janice and the videos were fun to watch. I married a non-dancer and can count on one hand the times we have gotten on the dance floor, a couple of navy balls and more importantly at our son's wedding. I took ballroom lessons in my early 20's and always felt that if you had a really great dance partner who knew what they were doing and you could relax and move freely with them, that you would be a great dancer too. This only happened on the rare occasion. Not many men knew how to dance in my neck of the woods. I'm content to watch others do a twirl these days.

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  6. "I knew I was supposed to be following but I was so accustomed to taking the lead that I was fighting him for the privilege"

    Hahaha! Oh that was funny! I went to an all-girls school too. We didn't have many dancing lessons, but of course, it was the same for us.

    Love the two videos; so different, and yet both so very entertaining!

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  7. That makes me think of our requisite dancing lessons in PE class. Quite an awkward time. I've always admired graceful dancers.

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  8. I took ballroom dance classes as a teenager, but it did me little good because none of the boys at the dances knew how to dance.
    I dragged Steve to some dance classes when we were in our 40's. He surprised himself by actually having fun. Unfortunately, we didn't keep it up and have now forgotten everything we learned.
    Your stories of teen dancing brought back memories... most of the not so good!

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  9. Oh, I'd love to be able to dance. Never had lessons. When I first met hubs (in the disco), he never wanted to dance. His excuse was that his knees were hurting. Uhuh. Anyway. Once we went to a wedding and there was a band and people all danced around, some more gracefully than others, and although I enjoyed watching, I would have loved to be able to join. A woman we vaguely knew asked hubs if he wanted to dance, and to my surpise he swirled around the dancefloor not unlike the fastfooted guy in that last video. I mean... WHAT? All the women wanted to dance with him and I was left sitting at the table. He enjoyed himself immensely. That was almost the end of our relationship ;-) It was about 18 years ago.
    We always enjoy watching Strictly Come Dancing. There is a Dutch version of that show, but it is not nearly as entertaining, so we don't watch that. But we (almost) stay at home to watch Strictly.
    Love your writing.

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  10. I took hula lessons when I was about 5 but no other kind of dancing lessons.

    I did enjoy going dancing in clubs. Disco of course.

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  11. Hmm wasn't able to access comments at first so you may get a duplicate..but I loved every bit of this dancing post. Told with humor and insight. Thanks!

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  12. I was going to ask if we'd been to the same school - until I got to the green uniform.

    My son has married a French-Algerian girl and at the wedding there was a noticeable difference between the dancing habits of the families of bride and groom. It caused great discussion as to why this should be - nature or nurture?

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  13. Oh the memories! I enjoyed reading this, Janice. I have two left feet and have never felt comfortable on the dance floor. I am happier on the sidelines watching others enjoy themselves. I've never been able to understand why people don't believe me when I say I would rather watch. :)

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  14. I also went to an all girls school where we were taught "country dancing" but not ballroom. At youthclub we tried the Cha Cha and then rock and roll arrived and all else was forgotten. I never learned to do ballroom dancing although Greg did try to teach me, but I'm no good at being led round a room, too bossy for that, so didn't get on too well. Greg also still likes a jive. It's ok for men as women do all the spinning, and I, like you, fear being flung against the wall. Did a bit of line dancing when it was the "in" thing. I now prefer to watch.

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  15. What a great memories, I wish I could dance very well too, I have a all left footage when I dance...love watching the videos. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Thank you everyone! It seems I struck a chord here. Too many husbands claiming they can't or it hurts.

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  17. I took a short ballet class in grade school and thought it was the most beautiful dance. I never did learn to do anything else. Now that I'm retired I learning line dancing. Not exactly ballet, but fun.

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  18. I loved reading your tales of your dance experiences-though they did bring back some horrible memories. I too went to an all girls school, was a terrible dancer, and always had to be the man because of being tall-which I hated! Especially when partnered with small pretty and popular girls. Then there was the 'modern' dance class we had-expressing ourselves through gesture to John Lennon records-hilarious for the teacher I am sure! My best formal dancing experience was a couple of years ago, when we went to a jive evening. I had no idea how to do it, but was lucky enough to dance with a very confident man who kind of took control so I could just do it! It was great! In fact that is similar to when I had to dance a waltz with Andy's dad-he also was good and took control so I could do it. I could go on but I won't-enough of the dancing! I do love Joyce Grenfell too-hilarious!

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