I mentioned that I wanted to talk about a programme that I found on the BBC’s iPlayer, You Make me Feel Like Dancing. It’s low-budget “reality” TV. Not something I might normally stumble across but I was so taken by the blurb that I had to watch it and find out more.
[su_quote]Series following choreographer Jack Murphy, as he attempts to realise his dream to reopen the Bolton Palais for one night only and make ballroom a national pastime once more.[/su_quote]
… make ballroom a national pastime once more
This is not Strictly territory, it’s not all fake tan and sequins. This is the social dancing movement that I am just about old enough to claim to have been a part of – though in its last gasp of expiration by the time that I came along. This Jack Murphy chappie wants to get people involved in what he terms “partner dancing” again. Britain was once crazy about social dancing and ordinary people could be found down at their local palais de danse/ballroom of a Friday or Saturday night (some went trotting across the floor several other nights a week too) waltzing, quick-stepping and fox-trotting the evening away.
My sister and I had ballroom dancing lessons when we were small, not to turn us into the next Blackpool trophy winner but to fit us with what was seen back then as an essential social skill. We had twinkly shoes. Sparkly, twinkly shoes, with little heels – the kind of thing that makes a six year old feel like a proper princess.
My dancing was not done in a town centre palais bedecked with glitter ball but at the local social centre, where our parents would take us along with them to weekend dances. Oft we would be found playing around the centre with the other kids but frequently we were on the floor, doing a slow-slow-quick-quick-slow with the best of them. There was also dancing at school from time to time, when weather ruled out the more unpleasant activities such as hockey. Being tall of course I always danced the male part. I doubt I could go the ladies way around a ballroom even if I tried but I can lead – oh yes, I can lead. Not actually a skill that a young woman would wish to boast off, really.
So, what of it? Well, simply that I wish Mr Murphy luck. I doubt he will be successful but I do so wish that he might. In the first episode of the show, he ventured into Bolton centre on a weekend evening and found that young people today go out simply to drink. Nightclubs apparently have been closing down for the last ten years – up here in my rural idyll I had no idea that youngsters no longer go out dancing!
The old dance halls had bars, they weren’t teetotal by any means, but drink was not the object of the exercise. Fundamentally it was all about sex! Partner dancing is intrinsically sexy. A dance hall is the ideal environment for meeting members of the gender of choice and it’s perfectly acceptable to get into close quarters with little more than a cursory “wanna dance?” The music volume was pitched at a level that allowed conversation. Wow, there’s an old-fashioned notion! It was a great way to get to know someone and by the end of the evening, if you had hit it off, you might well be dancing cheek to cheek and making a date for next week’s dance.
Of course, the better your skills on the dance floor, the better the chance of being asked to dance/having your invitation accepted and the better impression one might make on a prospective suitor.
I never had that teen-aged dance hall experience, they were closed down before I came of an age to be interested in young men. I was just old enough to regret that we were all jiggy-jiggy dancing an arms’s length apart at the local hop though and I have always been wistful for that age that I did not experience. I really cannot imagine a better date than to spend a whole evening being led masterfully around a dance floor. That is key though – a partner must not shuffle and shamble – they need to be confident, to know what they are doing and to be a strong leader. *Swoon*
Good luck, mate. Proper dancing cannot come back soon enough as far as I am concerned.
(If you watch the prog – look out for the bit where Mr Murphy tells a bunch of Octogenarians that he is not trying to reinvent the Fifties, that the Fifties were not great… and that in the Fifties he would have been illegal. Right On.)