By Maggie George
There’s something exciting happening in Hythe on Monday evenings. Instead of sitting in front of their televisions, people are flocking to the Royal British Legion clubhouse to be put through their paces with ballroom dance teacher, Mike Hall.
Quietly spoken, Mike exudes an air of gentle authority when teaching the adult Ballroom and Latin American classes he has been running there for the past year. Ballroom dancing has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years, thanks in no small part to “Strictly Come Dancing”. But Mike’s story starts way before that in 1982. At the age of thirty, unattached and on his own admission painfully shy, but with a love of the waltz and foxtrot genre of music, he walked through the doors of a Folkestone dance club and asked about ballroom lessons.
Never having danced before, he says it was the hardest thing he had ever done and at the end of the evening he felt he had two left feet and was totally confused. It is this which makes him so empathic to his complete beginners on Monday nights at Hythe.
Eventually it all began to make sense and he went on to take his dance medals. It was during this time that he met and married his first wife, with whom he danced competitively. When the marriage ended Mike went on to take his International Dance Teaching Association (IDTA) exams.
In 1999 Mike married again and continued dancing. However, when the marriage broke down he was without a dance partner but was also keen to pursue his other twin passions of photography and art. Because of this he took a break from his dancing career which was to last almost five years. He likens it to his “time in the wilderness” and says that on reflection, it was probably the lowest point of his life.
All this was to change when he went with friends to The Winter Gardens at Margate. Here he met and forged a friendship with a lady who had a fledgling dance class in East Kent. Mike was asked to help out and for the next five years he taught ballroom and sequence dancing. It was also when he began to fall in love with a new form of dance for him, Argentine Tango.
During this time, Mike was working as a freelance photographer for a local video company. Coupled with also working as an assistant dance teacher in Page Thirty various classes around Folkestone and Ashford, he took the decision to concentrate on his photographic work, building up his own business.
However, his phone still rang with enquiries about ballroom lessons. One of these was someone he had met as a pupil in Folkestone and who eventually became his new dance partner. Maggie was also to become a thorn in his side he declares tonguein- cheek, as it was she with her background of business management who persuaded him it was high time they started up their own dance classes and so MLM Dance was born. Mike likens the feeling of dancing the foxtrot and waltz correctly to that of walking on air and it is this feeling he strives to pass on to his pupils. He gently encourages them to “try that again” until he is content they have mastered the steps.
MLM Dance has gone from strength to strength, with new Friday evening classes now also up and running at Sandgate. However, if Mike had planned for a quiet life now he says he has another thought coming, as partner Maggie is busy sourcing a venue for new daytime classes which are due to commence some time later in the year.
With the photography in full swing in tandem with the dancing, not to mention his new-found love of amateur dramatics, which recently saw him performing in Folkestone and Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society (FHODS) productions, Mike says he has no thoughts of retirement any time soon. This will no doubt be music to the ears of his pupils.
Ballroom dance teacher, Mike Hall.
“Rye’s Own” March 2015
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