I watched Strictly Dance Fever last night. I think the dance competition knockout format has been pretty much done to death, but I still find myself watching, because I just love to watch dancing. I cheat though: I give the first few programmes a miss and start watching when the poorest dancers have been voted off. And I don’t watch the vote count and elimination any more either – I am so heartily sick of the way the presenters drag out the pause before the final decision in order to create tension. I don’t pay my licence fee for nothing to happen on screen.
I have dancing in my blood: my mother and father used to win dance competitions before they were married. But I was very shy about dancing as a child. I remember one particular children’s party where we sat in a circle on the floor, and were expected to get up one at a time and dance. I was hideously embarrassed, and so envious of a tall leggy girl who threw her limbs about all over the place to great effect.
I really found my dancing legs at my co-ed boarding school during the war. We danced to records on Wednesdays and Saturdays after tea. Glen Miller was one of our great standbys. My popularity (not great) increased on those nights, because I had a fully circular skirt which showed off to great effect in a Viennese waltz, and lots of the girls wanted to borrow it. There was one big strong senior boy who could whirl us round the floor as though we were feathers, and we all yearned for him to partner us.
At home in the holidays I used to dance at the youth club which my parents ran in the village. Mostly I danced with a girlfriend, taking the lead, which was not good for my subsequent style. Occasionally my Dad would dance with me, which was wonderful, though I had to stretch my legs like crazy to match his 6-foot-plus stride. But that didn’t happen often because Dad was the pianist – self-taught and playing only in the key of C!
When I left school and went to work in London, my life just didn’t seem to include dancing on a regular basis. I didn’t have the sort of friend I could go to dance halls with, so the occasional night out was all I got. My husband was no great ballroom dancer, but we did do Scottish Country Dancing together, both in the UK, and in Bombay, where we danced in shorts with a towel at the ready to mop up with – then off for a curry supper.
But it wasn’t until I was turned 50 that I took it into my head to SIGN UP FOR DANCING LESSONS!! I attended classes in Ballroom, Latin and Disco – that was around the time that John Travolta burst upon the dancing world in Saturday Night Fever - and I managed to make my way through Bronze, Silver and Gold medal exams. But I went alone as my husband wouldn’t join me, and had to dance with the instructors, so I gave up after that. Now I only watch, except for an occasional gentle circle dance. But I will watch dancing in absolutely any form at all.
[The picture shows my mother and father winning a dance competition in the 1920s. The piece of paper in my mother's hand is the £5 note which they won as a prize.]