“Sex On Fire”
I'm now dancing with Danny around five times a week, after work, in the studio we've hired and at the twice-weekly group sessions, and loving every moment. We travel together in my car or his battered old MG and, whenever a song comes on the radio, I ask him whether it's a jive, waltz, tango or cha cha, tapping out the beat on the steering wheel.
In our one-to-one lessons, he teaches me how to position my body correctly for the waltz, using a broom and a large, thick, elasticated band he's sourced to make sure my shoulders are down and back. I hold that pose for a couple of minutes, while keeping my elbows high, tummy sucked in and bottom pulled as though there's a £50 note between both cheeks. (For the record, I've normally got a fiver, not a £50 note in my purse). We know we'll be dancing to the beautiful Moon River for our waltz, so practice our routine to that on repeat.
“You're definitely more suited to the ballroom dances, because of your height,” he tells me. “If you worked your way through the medals after the show, you could go on to compete in it in the older age group.”
“With you?” I ask, jumping ahead somewhat.
“No,"he says. "Because I'm in the younger category, so, if I danced with you I'd never be able to compete in that age group again. And my competition dancing days are well and truly over.”
After grabbing drinks and sitting down for 10 minutes, we move on to practice our jive moves, playing contemporary tunes like Sex On Fire as well as the one we'll be dancing freestyle to at the show - In The Mood. I'm building up confidence to drop fall into his arms, trusting he'll be there to catch me. Although my brain thinks my body is doing the steps correctly and rotating my hips in a figure of eight the way he shows me, it's abundantly clear I'm at the beginning of my dance journey.
“Technique is crucial if you want to impress the judges,” he says, pushing my foot into the right place or pressing down on my shoulders to make sure they stay down and relaxed. “It's no good just knowing the steps and routine. You need to feel the music and move through it.”
He teaches me how to shimmy, rotate my hips in a figure of eight, when I should be doing a toe or heel lead and how to stretch my body into all sorts of strange positions, using muscles I haven't noticed before. How Latin and Ballroom dancing is not an Olympic sport baffles me.
I so wish it had been fashionable when I was a child, but it was the era of disco and Strictly Come Dancing was something shown late at night on BBC2, only watched by my grandparents. If we were ever taught it at school, it was just the girls who had lessons, taught by the nuns at our convent. As the tallest girl in my year, I always had to dance the man's steps and the classes were incredibly dreary. Stick me on the tennis court or athletics field any day instead.
I'm desperate for Danny to teach me more dances and he promises he will when our show is over. I don't want these one-to-one lessons to end or the big night to come. I'm falling in love with dance and its quirky traits.
© Ruth Supple 2021-08-15