By Maggie George
I envy the girls of today, they have so much more freedom than we of a “certain age” were able to enjoy. Take for instance courtship rituals. In my youth, if you liked a boy you had to wait in the hope he’d notice you and if all went well, he’d ask you out to the pictures.
Failing that, you had to work on ways with which to lure him. I can’t remember how many hours I practiced batting my eyelashes suggestively in front of the mirror in an effort to accomplish the alluring look other girls seemed to have been born with. I ended up looking as though I needed the attention of an optician rather than receiving an invitation out.
The dance halls were notoriously the place to meet a prospective partner. How many couples have met across a crowded floor and ditched the friends they went with by the time the Last Waltz played? Mind you, there were also the heart-wrenching times when the boy of your dreams asked your friend to dance instead and you were left like a wallflower holding their drinks.
Nowadays I go to quite a few afternoon social dances. You know the sort of thing, where pots of tea are served with bone china cups and saucers accompanied by wafer thin sandwiches with not a crust in sight. All accompanied by the sort of music played on The Light Programme of our childhoods.
I would have had a coronary at the thought a few years ago! I imagined tea dances as being full of fuddy-duddies in pleated skirts sporting Queen Mum hairdos and pearls, accompanied by men with comb-overs, beige socks and cardigans.
In actual fact, they are frequented by as lovely a bunch of people whom it has been my pleasure to meet. Well, by and large that is. There are the odd ones who think they are a born-again Ginger Rodgers or Fred Astaire. Who look down their noses at the likes of me, skipping around like a Spring-lamb in my vain attempt to accomplish a decentlooking quick-step. Actually, I more closely resemble a jelly on a plate than a Strictly Come Dancing candidate, although I’m harmless enough provided you don’t get in the way.
Ballroom dancing is relatively new for me. I was the “dancing queen” of the disco age when I would bop the night away whilst those around me flagged and left the floor arm-in-arm with their beau. But I had reached a point whereby I found myself to be a singleton in grave danger of becoming a “glamorous Granny” trying to strut my stuff amongst the younger generation. However, I certainly wasn’t ready to retire from a social life and depend on the delights of “Eastenders” or “Corrie” to keep me occupied on the long, cold winter nights. On the contrary, I felt there was a lot of life in the old girl yet. But how to channel that energy and more to the point, what to do as a woman alone?
I never learnt to waltz or foxtrot in my youth, although I had learned country and Scottish dancing at school. However, the fact that I could do a “Gay Gordon” or a Scottish reel never seemed to earn me much respect and I would invariably sit alone nursing a large gin and tonic when it came to the Last Waltz.
When a friend mentioned that she and her husband had taken up ballroom dancing and that there were a couple of single ladies who went along as well, the answer seemed quite apparent.
Duly armed with a new pair of sparkly dance shoes complete with suede soles, which I was assured would make my dancing improve in leaps and bounds (not true!) and half-a-dozen new outfits, the skirts of which swirled around my calves becomingly, I at least looked the part.
Soon, terminology such as “whisks”, “chairs”, “wings” and “fall-always” were becoming a second language. My tongue slipped easily over the newly-learnt waltz moves, although sadly my feet didn’t follow with such grace. However, I was determined to crack this new hobby. The social life was just what I needed after my period of feeling downright sorry for myself. Statistically, there are more newly-divorced or separated women in their twilight years than ever before and so I swiftly made new friends.
Several were widows who hadn’t danced for some thirty-odd years but were ready to cast off their widow’s weeds and take up with the living again. Some were hoping to have a second chance of finding happiness with a new partner while others just wanted a few hours in congenial company away from the telly.
Mind you, the dance lessons weren’t all work and no play; there were perks to be enjoyed. Not least of all, ogling the dance teacher, who moved like something out of “Dirty Dancing” during the sultry Latin American numbers. His taut little buttocks closely resembled a couple of rats in a sack as his hips moved to the rhythmic rhumba and his cha-cha-cha was enough to bring on a hot flush.
Having accomplished the waltz, quickstep and cha-cha whilst making reasonable inroads into the intricacies of the foxtrot (I used to love foxes until I had to learn this most difficult of dances, now I am seriously considering taking up hunting), I have been approached with a new challenge.
The dance teacher (yes he of the gyrating hips and twinkle-toes), has suggested I might care to learn Argentine Tango. I’ve crammed up on the finer points on YouTube and, when the Teacher (hallowed be his name), went on to say that he had split with his dance partner and there was a vacancy to fill and would I step into the breach, I decided that one doesn’t look into the proverbial gift-horse’s mouth and naturally, rose to the challenge and accepted with alacrity.
The only thing I dread is kicking my leg a little too high in some of those sensual moves I’ve seen performed and turning him from a tenor to a castrato. Either that or I might end my days in traction. But at least I’ll have had a lot of fun learning. Somewhere in my youth, as the song says, I must have done something good!
Rye’s Own May 2014
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