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A journey in Dancing Modern Jive

Updated on August 7, 2017

'You turned the wrong way.'

Laura stared at her dance partner blankly. Which way was she supposed to have turned? And how had she got it wrong? 'This is my very first lesson and the first move I have ever learnt.' she replied. 'Did you really expect me to get it right first time?'

'Let's try again, shall we?' That sounded more encouraging. With the dance instructor demonstrating on stage with his partner how it should be done, everyone in the class went over the move again.

This time, Laura got it right. Ah, that's it. Clockwise turn first, then do an anti-clockwise turn. There was clearly more to this dancing than she realised. On the class went. There were four moves in all to be learned. It felt like an awful lot to take in and learn. Every so often, they had to move two ladies on. Later, Laura learned that this figure varied, according to the imbalance between the men and ladies.

After about three quarters of an hour, the instructor announced that after they had gone through all four moves, they would go into freestyle. Laura panicked inwardly. How on earth was she supposed to remember all that she'd been taught?

She needn't have worried. Her new dance partner took Laura through all the four moves they'd learned in that order, all the way through the song. And she was actually dancing. It was brilliant! She felt so exhilarated. This dance lark was utterly fantastic.

But later, when she and her hubby, Charlie (it was his first dance class, too) tried to go through the moves they'd learned, it was hopeless. Neither of them could remember anything. In desperation, Laura called over the lady who ran the Dance Club. 'Would you help Charlie go over what we learned in the lesson?' Laura asked. And she watched as Mary patiently helped Charlie go through the four moves.

After the freestyle, the intermediate lesson took place. In a side room, Laura, Charlie and the other beginners were taken through the beginner moves again. The volunteer teachers were very good and very patient.

'That was brilliant,' Laura announced as they drove home. 'Let's do it again next week.' Charlie murmured his agreement. Perhaps he was just tired, Laura thought.

Over the next eight or so weeks, they did the beginners lesson, followed by the repeat in the side room, before graduating to the intermediate class. That was so much harder. Yes, some of the beginners moves formed the basis for the more advanced moves. But not all. There was nothing in the basic moves that helped you with leans and drops. Or indeed, many other moves.

Laura loved it so, but she had absolutely no confidence in her ability to dance. Once, about seven months or so after she and Charlie had started dancing, one of the volunteer teachers, Andy, told her, 'I don't think you realise how good a dancer you are.' Laura smiled back at him, totally disbelieving his words. She wasn't that good.

For a long, long time, Laura felt happier in the lessons, where she was being told what to do. So did Charlie, he later told her. In fact, Charlie said he only continued because she loved it so, despite her lack of confidence.

He had also taken to writing down every single move. Exactly as it was taught. Gents left hand to ladies right. Turn clockwise and so on. At the time, Laura complained because she was missing being able to dance, particularly when a great song was playing. But later, she actually told him, she was grateful, really grateful. Knowing exactly who every move went meant she could help out on those rare occasions when the men needed it. And of course, it made her (and Charlie) so much better dancers.

Then there were the freestyle nights. At first, Laura would count down the time. Only two hours to midnight, an hour-and-a-half, forty minutes to go. But as time passed and Laura got better as a dancer (and grew in her belief that she was improving), she began to enjoy the dancing. So did Charlie.

From those early days, when he only went along because Laura wanted to go, he transformed into someone who wanted to go as well and became a good lead. From time to time, over the years, Laura was told by strangers that he was good. That was good to hear. Those strangers didn't know what Charlie and Laura were to each other, so their views on Charlie's ability to dance well were totally unbiased.

Once, about six or so years after they started dancing, Laura and Charlie booked and paid for a dance weekend away on the coast. 'What took you so long?' Andy asked when he heard they were going.

'Never got around to it,' Laura said, with a shrug and a smile.

That weekend was brilliant. They arrived on the Friday at around 4 pm. to find that people like then who had booked basic accommodation (the cheapest deal) could not actually book in till 5 pm. Oh well. That was no hardship. Despite it being early September, a hot sun blazed down. Lots of people were milling about. They could see a few people already dancing on a wooden terrace just over the way. And here and there they could actually see several people they knew from their regular dance haunts.

Eventually, they checked in, given their wristbands and allocated their apartment. A small map was given to them, with their apartment number circled. It was right over on the far side of the camp. Before finding it, they bought an electricity card for £5 to power the electricity in their apartment. Then they got back in their car and drove slowly round, checking numbers on the sides of the little rows of two-tiered apartment blocks.

With luck, they found that there was a small car park behind where their apartment was. They parked and began taking luggage and stuff to their apartment. It was on the first floor, so it meant several trips before they'd lugged everything inside. Laura felt like flopping for a while, but they decided to put everything away first. Then they flopped on the sofa for a moment.

They were here! Laura felt a fizz of excitement bubbling through her. It was 6 pm. Soon, very soon, they would be dancing the night away. First, food. There was a microwave. They knew that from the print out they'd downloaded. Only thing was, there were only two single sockets in the little kitchen area and one of them was over a little shelf. Not really enough. But - food. Charlie put his in first. Ten minutes. They both busied themselves buttering bread and making up coffees for a bit later.

As Charlie ate, Laura got her ready meal cooking. The television was an old cathode ray tube type TV, but at least they could watch it.

When they decided to get ready for that evening's entertainment, :Laura wore a bum belt around her waist. In it went some cash, her door key and her inhaler - just in case! She the fixed herself an alcoholic drink from their personal stores, to settle her nerves, Charlie did likewise. Then they decided to go.

At about 10 pm, they cut through the camp via the pathways, towards the main complex. As they neared, they could hear the music blaring out. They walked to the Queen Victoria, where the terrace was and began dancing. And dancing and dancing. With the occasional break for water, they danced and danced.

Then they decided to try other rooms. The main room was very crowded, but there was a bit of space over on the far side. Then they decided to try the blues room. It was strange walking in at first, for the silent disco was on. Those dancing had headphones on, but for those watching could hear nothing, it seemed weird to watch. Charlie and Laura put on the headphones. Ah, that was it! They danced in there for a while and then went back to the Queen Vic. where they danced for the rest of the evening.

At about 3 am, when they had been dancing for five hours pretty much straight, Laura decided to call it a night. 'I want to be able to dance tomorrow night,' she told Charlie. 'So I need some rest.'

He nodded. 'I'll dance for a bit longer. See you later.' Laura nodded and walked back to their apartment. It was well lit and felt totally safe. Despite the hour, it felt very warm still. There was no wind,. She let herself in to their apartment and sat down at the little rickety dining table (Charlie had wedged a tissue under the wonky leg, to keep the table straight). Her half-finished alcoholic drink was there. She switched in the TV, drank her drink and then decided to have another. Despite her tiredness, she needed to unwind from an exhilarating night. She sipped her drink and idly watched something playing on the TV. As she was finishing her drink, she heard a key in the door. It was Charlie. He wanted a drink, so Laura had another to keep him company. Then they went to bed.

The next evening, it was the same, except Laura managed to keep dancing until 4 am. During those hours, she actually got some dances in with other men she'd never danced with before, as they danced at other venues in other parts of the country. That was six hours solid she'd been dancing - bar walking between rooms! She would have danced longer, only she sat down for a moment to watch others dance. That was a mistake, for she suddenly felt exhausted. Back to the apartment for a drink or two and then sleep.

The next day, they were so tired that they spent the afternoon on the beach, snuggled up in amongst the dunes out of the wind. The sun was so bright, Laura had to wear her sunglasses.

That evening, they decided they were far too exhausted to dance, although they could have. In the Queen VIc, the dancing went on till 7 am, all three nights. After all, they had to vacate the camp by 10 am the next day.

When the alarm went off the next morning at 9 am, Laura groaned. The wonderful weekend was over and they had the prospect of a two hour drive home, while still exhausted. Aargh! She and Charlie simply packed up the few remaining things they hadn't packed the night before and began the laborious task of taking everything down to the car. Laura walked back to the main complex to hand in their keys. It was very subdued, like walking around after the party was over, Which it clearly was.

They managed the drive back home in that two hours and hauled everything into the house. They would unpack it all later. For now, they would simply crash in the bed, on the sofa and sleep. Or not. Or watch TV. Or not. One thing they would not be doing was going on their regular dance night the next evening at their regular dance venue. Both Charlie and Laura agreed they simply had no energy for that.

© 2017 Alice Dancer


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