May I have this dance?

For those of us who are addicted to the Saturday tea-time feel-good joy that is Strictly Come Dancing, the half way point has been passed. It’s sad in in its own way, because we know there will be the best part of a year before we get it back on our screens, but it’s also brilliant as we can look forward to some incredible dancing over the forthcoming weeks.

I’ve watched Strictly from the start, at the beginning because it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and even predicted in a winner in Tom Chambers when he competed… in hindsight it’s a shame I wasn’t involved in a sweepstake. Winding forward the clock to late 2009, at an Explorer Scout meeting (which I’d missed due to being at a school event) they decided that, for that term anyway, we’d try Ballroom and Latin Dancing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Wind forwards five years, to the present day. In the intervening years I’ve been to university and continued with it, even becoming Club President in my final year, competing at competitions, performing in shows, demos, tea dances and choreographing the Capulet Ball in a production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I’ve also developed a soft spot for Fred Astaire musicals, happily losing afternoons to watching him work magic with his feet alongside Ginger Rogers or Rita Hayworth. Gene Kelly’s quite the joy as well – it was only recently that I twigged that it was he, the Gene Kelly, in the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers that I’d watched so often when I was little. Swashbuckling dancers… now that’s something to aspire to.

As many people do, occasionally you get a song stuck in your head, and you suddenly find yourself dancing. This happens to me every now and again while I’m working in the shop during quiet spells, and occasionally customers walk in on me, as happened this morning. The eyes say everything, begging the question “why?”; while I was at university, and a couple of times since graduation when people have caught me at it, I’ve been asked the same thing, what made me take it up in the first place?

The honest answer is simple: I tried it on a whim, and fell in love with it.

There, I said it. But as a friend pointed out, saying something like that isn’t necessarily going to convince any blokey-bloke who enjoys being seen as macho to try it out.

But having learnt to dance, I can safely say it’s something I think all people should learn. My father, reflecting back, has said that he wished he had the opportunity to do so. It’s not just learning how to look good on the dance floor, but so much more. With the group I was learning with at university, they have become my closest friends, and we are like a family – some people won’t get it, but those who know the feeling will understand just what I mean. It’s social as much as it is competitive, it’s wonderfully timeless, and as with anything, the more you put in, the greater the reward.

On top of that, the looks on the faces of DJs or bouncers when you’re in a nightclub and suddenly break out into a Cha-cha, or a Salsa, or a Jive, or… oh, you get the idea, but the picture is priceless. While older music gives a real magic to some of the numbers, it is not restricted to It which some people seem to forget. It’s a fantastic skill to have as well, and let’s face it, it’s a great talking point. Deep down I’m a Ballroom Boy, much as I love the Latin, and part of me wishes I’d tried it out sooner.

So go on, give it a twirl! And don’t forget, if you want to dance you have to go up to someone and ask that elusive question…






About Peter Smith

A voracious reader, Peter Smith is an editorial assistant with an unhealthy passion for tea, ballroom dancing, cake decorating (and eating), and photography. Fortunately not all at the same time.
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