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My Ballroom Dancing Experience

March 28th, 2013 by Dexter Findley

I'd never been the most co-ordinated individual, but when my school (an all-boys school) started a Ballroom Dancing Society with the local girl's college, I decided that risking embarrassment and mockery was a small price to pay for being able to finally socialise with women. I had no previous interest in Ballroom dancing, or any other form of dancing for that matter, but some things are worth trying new things for. For a fifteen-year-old in a somewhat repressive environment, female interaction is one of those things.

So one Thursday evening after 9pm, a group of us, the awkward, the frustrated, the desperate and the pitiful, rallied in a Spanish classroom and waited for the mythical females to arrive. Our instructor - a Maths teacher who we'll call Ms. Walker for the purposes of this blog post - was as nervous as we were: this idea was, after all, her brainchild.

We were not disappointed. About thirty girls came, slightly outnumbering us boys. Ah, what it was to finally have meaningful female company, outside of that of our female relatives. We chatted, bantered, laughed and exchanged numbers for a good half an hour; basking in the normalness of the situation.

And then we were politely reminded by Ms. Walker that we were here to dance, and that socialising should be a secondary concern. Oops, of course.

For starters, she introduced us to the Waltz. Not the full version, no: we just waltzed 'in a box' at first, getting to grips with the three-time rhythm by essentially repeating the same steps over and over on the same spot. ONE two-three, ONE two-three... when she thought we'd finally got it, we partnered up (oh, the joy) and on came the Blue Danube.

By the end of that session we'd begun waltzing semi-properly, and the more adventurous among us had even tried spinning. We left in good spirits, terrifically excited and counting down the days to the next Thursday.

The few sessions after that we were introduced to the Cha Cha (one, two, cha-cha-cha!), tango and salsa. Great fun was had by all, and lessons began to take on a certain set format: fifteen or so minutes of banter to begin with, after which we recapped some dance moves for the half an hour, and then enjoyed just under an hour's worth of proper dancing: some of the keener members would agree on an iPod playlist with Ms. Walker, usually a mixture of the more lively Spanish dances followed by some slow waltzes.

It was interesting just how much 'pop' music you could dance to, one way or another. Mostly for waltzes: Everybody Hurts was a firm favourite (somewhat surprisingly), but The Beatles, OMD and Seal also featured. Some ended up forced: one experiment to Cha Cha to Walk like an Egyptian didn't end particularly well, for example.

As our dancing skills improved, so did our friendships. It then decided, late into the term, that an end-of-term Ballroom Dancing Society Ball should be held. Being the Autumn term, it would also nicely coincide with the school Christmas festivities. Also, being a boarding school, we had plenty of historic rooms which ticked the 'wow-factor' box.

I was incredibly excited. As the night drew nearer, I found myself practicing the dances on my own in my dorm (much to the derision of my mates), especially the all-important waltz. Dancing was now firmly on my radar as a 'fun' activity, although a few months before I would have hardly given it thought.

A few days before I panicked over what I should wear: in the end I asked my housemaster if he had anything I could borrow and lo, he let me have his tailcoat for the night.

The night arrived. Looking and feeling like a million dollars, I rocked up to the hall where it was being held. Ms. Walker had pushed this event like crazy, and as a consequence there were over a hundred people there, along with a live (student) band.

I checked in with a few regulars and settled into the swing of things, dancing with known quantities and generally having a good time. Mid way through the evening, I saw a group of girls in a corner, dancing amongst themselves in a circle. My tailcoat imbued me with confidence, so I went up to one of them and asked her to dance.

She accepted. We danced, we waltzed (and put not a step wrong, may I add) and a few weeks later, we began dating.

So not only did Ballroom Dancing give me a new talent (it's a bit rusty nowadays, though), it also enabled me to meet my high-school girlfriend. New skills and new friendships all in one: what's not to like?

Categories: dancing, ballroom
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