I’m musical. I can do rhythm. I therefore assumed that my brain, upon feeling rhythm, would be able to tell my body and feet what to do without too much trouble.
I was wrong.
My buddy Helen was the facilitator of this challenge. She and her boyfriend are regulars at Cardiff Lindyhop (www.lindyhopcardiff.com) dance classes and socials. When her message popped up inviting me to go with her to a Beginners’ Class followed by a social dance with live band, I thought yeah …let’s do it!
My first problem was footwear. ‘Flats or daps’, Helen told me. I possess neither. I actually scouted round a couple of charity shops in the morning hoping to pick up some cheap ballet pumps but in the end resorted to borrowing my daughter’s black Vans. Black and white spotty skater dress, black tights and black Vans. I’d have to do.
The event was at Penarth Pier Pavillion – a superb renovation of the building at the entrance to the pier. Despite me being late collecting Helen (blame the Welsh rugby team…!), we arrived in time to have a drink before the class kicked off. At 7.30, myself and a load of other would-be dancers formed a circle around the instructors Anna and Ollie, and the learning curve began.
We learned about ‘leading’ and ‘following’. I was a ‘follower’. And it soon became clear that being led by a ‘leader’ who knows as little about what they’re doing as the ‘follower’ they’re trying to lead… well it doesn’t work too well!! First we learned the ‘hold’ and the basic steps – back and two triple-steps. We practised those a few times and then we were instructed to move to our left to a new partner in the circle. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, and things were about to get a whole lot more complicated as the next thing to be introduced was turns. In theory, the ‘leader’ firmly guides the ‘follower’ in the direction of the desired turn… In practice, when two human brains are trying to work out what they’re seeing demonstrated and apply it to a novice situation, it doesn’t quite work like that! The simplest turn began to come together, only for a ‘place-change’ turn to be added. I kept ending up with my back to the action – I’m still not sure whether that was right or wrong, but it did mean I couldn’t see what to do next!!!
Move on, move on. By this time we were on a sequence of two lots of ‘basic steps’, a turn, a ‘place change’ turn, and then a turn back into hold. Hahahahaha! Each time I moved on, I introduced myself to my new partner, and asked ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ Some were more confident in their responses, with a consequently more assured run through the sequence with that ‘leader’. My observations on different partners also included the following:
(1) height matters, as hooking my elbow over the arm of someone significantly taller than me hurt, and dancing with someone shorter than me (yes there were some) made me feel insecure
(2) when attending a dance class, you should not eat a garlic-infused evening meal beforehand, and you should definitely apply deodorant and/or aftershave appropriately
(3) it’s bad when the ‘follower’ steps on the ‘leader”s toes… worse when it’s the other way round
It’s compulsory when attending a class such as this to throw yourself in. Those who attended as couples and refused to move around the circle I think had far less fun than those of us that did. And of course there is the upside that some people have brought rather attractive partners with them, and you legitimately get the chance to muscle in…
The one-hour class flew by. After that we had a glass of wine, and stationed ourselves beside the dance floor to observe the dancing and listen to the fabulous swing band (Emily Wright and The Royals). Helen danced with some of the gents she knew from class, and kindly asked them to take me for a spin too… So, I got 3 dances… I can’t remember the last time I was so apologetic…”Sorry…sorry… I don’t know what I’m doing…”… but it certainly proved true that a confident ‘leader’ made following so much easier.
I enjoyed my evening, despite feeling totally incompetent for the whole time, and am actually considering signing up for the 4 week beginners’ course in Cardiff. Anyone care to join me?
[8 down, 42 to go]