A Beginners’ Dance Journey

//A Beginners’ Dance Journey

A Beginners’ Dance Journey

I thought it might be fun to follow a group of imaginary beginners as they start their dance journey from their very first lesson.  Perhaps it will bring back a few memories and even put a smile on your face.  For people who have yet to take that first step I hope it will help you to decide to give Modern Jive a try.  You’d be very welcome.

Chapter 1: Ellie’s First Step

Everyone has a different dance journey from their start in a beginner’s class.  Even their introduction to Modern Jive will vary.  Some will come as an alternative to the gym, some to try out a new hobby.  Others will come in response to life style changes and some to find a new social life.

Many come to their first class night with a friend, some with social networking groups but many come on their own.  That first night can be quite a challenge, and some sadly don’t even make it to their second lesson.  What follows is a tale about a fictitious group of beginners who brave the lines in the Modern Jive classes. 

You are a woman who would like a new interest and, having watched ten series of Strictly Come Dancing, have decided to finally try out a dance class.  You’re probably a little more Carol Kirkwood than Georgia May Foote, but you did tap dancing as a kid.  You have been known to strut your stuff at the office Christmas Party along with everyone else, so its got to be worth a try.

So one evening you type ‘Dance Classes’ into Google.  The list goes on forever.  Surely you’ll find something.  You start at the top – Adult ballet, Broadway Tap and Flamenco classes.  You scroll down a little – Burlesque classes, First Wedding Dance Classes (Really!), Salsa, Tango, Argentinian Tango.

You start to wonder what happened to ballroom lessons.  Hadn’t the success of Strictly seen a rise in the popularity of ballroom classes?  You scroll down a little further – more Salsa, Belly Dancing, Pole Dancing!  How did Pole dancing get above Ballroom lessons in the search results?

 *  *  *  *  *

‘So did you sort a dance class then?’  Her friends in the office were interested to see what progress had been made.

‘No. I eventually found lots of ballroom classes, but it seems you need a partner, and I don’t know any men I could ask to join me.’

‘Well, why don’t you try Modern Jive?’

‘What’s that?’

‘I did it a few years back.  I remember it being fun.’

‘But what about a partner?’

‘You don’t need one.  Lots of people go on their own.’

So you revisit Google, and sure enough there is Modern Jive.  Though there’s still a little mystery as to what it involves, it sounds like a fun way to learn, and they emphasise that you don’t need to come with a partner.  There is a class not far from work on a Tuesday night.  You will look forward to it, though you feel a tinge of nervousness, but hopefully come Tuesday you’ll have overcome any jitters.

As you go through the door you are doing your best to hide the little bit of nervousness you didn’t fully conquer.  You are put at ease by a friendly face who asks you to fill a form in, and you get a little extra comfort from being given a ‘Beginners’ sticker.  You enter the main hall where groups of people are scattered around the perimeter of the dance floor, and you spot the teacher standing on the stage.  The nerves return a little, but you take comfort from the websites promise it was a fun way to learn to dance.

Then you hear a command from the stage that cranks up the anxiety.

‘OK everybody. Find a partner and get on the dance floor.’

People quickly pair up, but before you can worry that you might be left alone at the edge of the floor, an equally uncomfortable man of similar age, also wearing a beginner’s badge, invites you to join him on the floor.

‘So is this your first lesson too?’

‘Oh no, its my third.’

‘I’m told its fun.’

‘Can’t say my first two lessons were exactly fun, but I’ve decided to give it one more try.’

He wasn’t helping, but you have good reason to be proud of yourself – you have got yourself on to a dance floor.

Here we go then.  A first instruction comes from the teacher on the stage.

‘We start every lesson with the basics.  All face the stage.  Now step back with your right foot.  Bring it back to where you started.  Now step back with your left foot.  Bring it forward.  Step back right, step back left.’

‘Hey I can do this.’

‘Lets do it to some music.’

Your dance journey is about to start.  The track has a well defined rhythm, which you easily pick up.

‘Step back right, step back left’.

As you connect with the beat you start to swing your hips slightly.

‘Step back right, step back left’.  You are dancing, and the smile across your face says it all.

‘I’m on my way. I’m Carol Kirkwood, I might even be Georgia May Foote.’

You look at the man, who had kindly led you on to the dance floor, stepping back at your side.  Stress is etched on his face.  It was easy to see why.  He just hadn’t got the beat.  The ‘dad dancing’ guys at the office party had more co-ordination.

A new instruction came from the stage. ‘Now turn to face your partners. Gentlemen hold your hands out in front of you, palms facing inward.  Ladies drape you fingers over the man’s hand.’

You smile at your partner.  No smile comes back.  There is just fear.  He knows what’s coming.

 

Chapter 2: Ellie’s First Three Moves

The first time you do anything new it can be a little bit stressful – the first day at school, the first day at a new job, even the first time you return a library book late.  Even the nice things are stressful – the first time you ride a bike without stabilisers, the first time you fly, your first date and god forbid your first kiss.

The list of stressful situations we put ourselves through is endless.  Of course we can avoid a great deal of stress by simply not signing up to new things.  Don’t enrol for Zumba, don’t join the local amateur dramatics society, don’t even join the library (though they actually love you when you bring overdue books back), and what ever you do – think twice before accepting the offer of a first date.  Perhaps you shouldn’t go to that first Modern Jive dance class either. 

A further instruction comes from the stage, ‘Now introduce yourself to your partner if you haven’t done already.’

A nervous voice speaks opposite, ‘Robert.’

‘Hi Robert I’m Ellie.’

‘Now remember that Modern Jive is a male led dance, so men push your partner away as you step back with your right foot.  Now pull your partner back toward you as you bring your feet together.  Push away again as you step back left.  Now keep going.  Push away, bring her back, push away.’

Robert just hasn’t got it.  There’s no rhythm to his movement, and as you are connected to him you are thrown out of time too.

‘Now lets do it to some music’

As the sound of an easy paced dance track fills the room, you realise that Robert hasn’t connected to the beat and so neither can you.  A few minutes ago you were grateful that this man had offered to be your partner, but now you shudder at the thought that you might have to dance with him throughout the lesson.

But then relief.

‘One lady on.’

Suddenly all the women move up to the next man in the line.  You politely say thank you to Robert.  He just says ‘Sorry.’

‘Now lets do that again with your new partner.’

This next man is also wearing a ‘Beginner’ sticker.

‘Is it your first lesson too?’

‘No its my fourth and I’m Andy.’

‘I’m Ellie and I’ve not quite got it.’

‘Well lets give it a go.’

Now you get it.  Your new partner connects immediately with the rhythm, and as you follow his lead so do you.

‘One lady on.’

You thank Andy as you move up the line to a new partner.  Two ladies back you hear Robert saying sorry again.

‘So here is tonight’s routine.’

You watch in wonder as the couple on the stage dance the three moves you are to be taught.  It looks a little complicated.  Lots of foot work and hands going everywhere, but the teacher insists that by the end of the lesson you will be able to dance the sequence twice through.

You can’t help doubting yourself, and you begin to realise why Robert might not have actually enjoyed his first two lessons.  You look across at your new partner.  He is not wearing a ‘Beginners’ sticker.

‘It looks difficult.’

‘Don’t worry they’ll break it down. You’ll be fine.’

*  *  *  *  *

‘So how did it go?’ The girls in the office had all wished her luck yesterday.

‘It was really good.  We only did three moves, but it was a little stressful at times.  I kept going wrong, but I have to admit it was fun.’

‘I told you that you’d have fun.’

‘Yes you were right.’

‘So are you going next week?’

‘I can’t wait!’

As you sit back at your desk you can’t help feeling proud of yourself.  Proud that you had dared to go in the first place – and on your own. You thought back to the end of the lesson.

‘Now we are going to go through the moves twice, and then just keep dancing.’

That had brought the stress rushing back. ‘Keep dancing? But what moves do I do? Thank god for Andy!’

Your partner for that first real dance, at the end of the class, was the beginner who had done three more lessons than you.

‘Don’t worry. After we’ve done tonight’s three moves, I’ll do some of the moves from last week.’

You remember your anxiety spilling over. ‘But I wasn’t here last week!’

‘It will be Okay, just follow my lead.’

You remember how Andy had led you through the three moves from the lesson, and then guided you through some of the moves he could remember from his previous lessons.  He’d gone wrong a couple of times, and you had got your hands mixed up at times.  But every time you went wrong you both just laughed at yourselves.  But you had danced through a whole track, all three minutes of it and it felt good.

Before you get back to your work you allow yourself one last memory of the previous night.  Just before that dance with Andy you had caught a glimpse of Robert with his own partner.  She did not have a ‘Beginners’ sticker.  You had thought that that would help him, but you had forgotten that it was Robert’s job to lead her.  While his partner was obviously a lot more experienced, it was of no help to Robert at all.

You remember seeing him trudging off the dance floor half way through the song.  You remember his last words to his partner,

‘Sorry.’

 

Chapter 3: Peter’s First Dance

Nobody wants to fail at anything, and failing in public can be particularly damaging to your confidence.  The saying ‘Dance like nobody’s watching’ is a great slogan for anybody trying to improve their dancing.  Those words should be a comfort to every beginner too, because nobody is watching – everyone is busy dancing.

Well not quite, because your partner is watching – they are watching every move you make and feeling it too.  They’ll know when you are out of sync with the beat, they’ll sense any hesitation and they’ll definitely know it when the move goes wrong.  If you are a man leading the dance moves your partner will be watching you even closer.  They have to – they need to read your signals. That’s how they know what move is coming next. 

You are a man who’s been told to up your fitness level.  The weight has crept up a little more lately, and is now spreading round your waist.  You recently went up a trouser size.  The doctor was quite gentle on you, but you have thankfully been a bit harder on yourself. But what’s to be done about it?  You hate the gym and jogging is as appealing as the purgatory that was PE lessons at school.

One night you are at a wedding celebration, doing your best dad dancing (you were quite a mover in your younger disco days), when you become aware of a couple doing what looks like rock ‘n’ roll, but obviously isn’t.  As they leave the floor you ask them what dance they were doing and they enthusiastically tell you about the Modern Jive class they attend,

‘Why don’t you come along. We’ll be there.’

‘Yes, I might give it a try.’

‘Its a fun way to get fit.’

God do I look that unfit!

You’d survived your first lesson, and had been lucky to get another beginner for the full dance at the end.  You’d explained it was your first night, and being relatively new herself she had been happy to keep doing the same three moves they had been taught in the class. You had then continued to watch the more experienced dancers do their stuff in the freestyle session.  It looked amazing when compared with your own limited dance of three moves, and the same three moves over and over again.  You suddenly doubted whether you could ever achieve that standard.

Before your self doubt could knock your confidence too much, you are asked to dance by one of the dance crew (other dancers who volunteer to help out the beginners).

‘It’s my first night.’

‘That doesn’t matter, lets see how you got on with tonight’s moves.’

You did Okay, and you sensed your timing got a little better.

‘You’ve picked that up well.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Now remember to ask other people to dance.’

Boosted by her comments you confidently ask a woman to dance.

*  *  *  *  *

‘So how did you get on?’ Your work colleague had been surprised that you had chosen to go.

‘It went really well until I asked this woman to dance.  I thought she was a beginner, but she turned out to be quite an accomplished dancer and sadly not very patient.’

The memory of that dance was burned on your consciousness.  It had been three minutes of hell.  Your partner had quickly realised that you couldn’t do more than the three moves from the lesson, and let you know that perhaps you shouldn’t have asked her to dance.  Your confidence had taken such a knock that suddenly you were struggling to dance the moves a few minutes earlier you had performed so fluently.

‘I wish I hadn’t asked her.  It really set me back.’

‘Was that it then,’ his friend was even less supportive than yesterday, when he had questioned his motives for choosing dancing over the gym.

‘I just stood there watching everybody else dancing.  They were all so good.’

You had thought about whether dancing had been such a good idea.  You’d tried.  That was something.  You were thinking about leaving when a women, also wearing a beginner’s sticker, tapped you on the shoulder.

‘How did you get on?’

He remembered her from the lesson.  She had introduced herself, but he couldn’t remember her name, which wasn’t surprising as everything about the last hour, including the three dance moves, was a vague memory.

‘Ellie.’

‘Yes sorry, I’m Peter.’

‘So Peter are you going to the beginners refresher class? I found it really helpful last week.’

From somewhere you found a little piece of your self belief and helped by Ellie’s obvious enthusiasm you decided to give the second class a go.

‘I found that last session a little gruelling.’

‘I was the same last week, but it gets better and its great fun. I couldn’t wait to come back again.’

You couldn’t help wonder if it hadn’t been for Ellie, whether you would have given up there and then.  You now remembered a moment that had made you smile.

‘Peter meet Robert, he’s a beginner too.’

‘Is it your first week?’

‘No its my fourth.’

‘So are you enjoying it as much as Ellie.’

‘I’m afraid not. I’m thinking of giving up.’

‘You can’t do that. Ellie says its fun and anyway we beginners should stick together.’

‘Yes boys no quitting!’

 

Chapter 4: Six Dance Buddies

In primitive societies there was a need for people to live in groups, as survival depended on a high degree of co-operation,  and so humans developed as social beings with a real need to belong to and interact with other like minded people.  As modern society developed there is less need for the ties that once held us together.  Sure you will meet other people at work, but you can get by with little contact with your fellow human beings.

However the human spirit did not evolve to sit watching TV all night, or live in a virtual world where our only friends are on Facebook.  Into this void have come numerous clubs and societies, where like minded people can once again be in groups which have a common purpose.

The Modern Jive Beginners’ Class is not unsurprisingly a place where new bonds of friendship are made, after all the participants have a common interest – to remember the moves to get through a three minute dance track.  They can not learn to dance on their own and if they are to make progress on the dance floor, they will need to support each other.

You are ushered in to another room at the side of the main hall, for the Beginner’s Refresher Class, and are greeted by a member of the dance crew.  You look around, there are six others – four women, one of which is Ellie and two other men.  You pick out the nervous looking one, you now know to be Robert and thankfully the other guy quickly introduces himself.

‘I’m Andy. Is this your first time?’

‘Yes, you too?’ ‘No I think its my fourth.’

‘Well I’m Peter.  I just had a bad experience on the dance floor.  I have to admit I nearly gave up.’

‘You’ll find this refresher lesson will help.’

‘I hope so.’

Everyone was paired up with a partner. You introduced yourself to a woman you remembered from the main lesson.

‘So how did you get on with the moves?’

‘I think I did OK, but I struggled a bit with the moving on to a new partner thing.’

‘Oh?’

‘It was a bit like speed dating to music, and some of the men were a little forward.’

‘Well I’m Peter.’ You couldn’t help wondering if she might think giving your name was a little forward, but she offered her own seemingly quite willingly.

‘I’m Mandy.’

There being one woman over, Ellie stood out as the crew member went through the first move again.  Once the move had been practised, the women were instructed to move up the line to the next man.  Mandy moved on to Andy, and you heard her exchange names with him quite readily too.  In the meantime Ellie took her place as your partner.

‘So Peter, have you got it?’

‘Hopefully.’

*  *  *  *  *

That night as you lay in bed, you felt pleased that you had promised your fellow beginners that you would be there next week.  You had made a lot of progress in the refresher class, and by the end you had danced the three moves quite confidently and reasonably smoothly.  But your thoughts went beyond the actual dancing, to think about the men and women you’d met in that second class.  You’d got to know the names of the other two women as they had moved up the line to be your partner.

They were Janice, a first timer like yourself and Paula, who had started the same time as Andy.  You couldn’t help but think how friendly your fellow beginners had been.  Was it because you were all in it together – all still lacking in confidence, but all determined to give yourselves a fair crack of the whip.

You thought about Robert, who even after four lessons, was still struggling to properly connect with the beat of the music.  You’d chatted with him on the way back to the main room.

‘I know I’m struggling. but thankfully some of the women are really patient with me.  Paula always asks me to dance in the freestyle sessions, and Ellie’s gives me plenty of encouragement.

‘We all need help Robert.’

‘Yeh, I hope they don’t give up on me.’

Then you smiled to yourself as you remembered Mandy, the girl who thought she’d mistakenly walked in to a speed dating singles night.  She had seemed quite relaxed in the Beginners’ refresher class, as she had danced with the three of them in turn, and on the second time round she had been quite chatty.  Perhaps they were not perceived as threats, after all they had to focus all their mental energy on getting their moves to flow, and there was little left to get over-friendly with anybody.  Whatever the reason she, and the other three women appeared to be very comfortable with him, and his new found dance friends.

Your last thought was of Robert again. You thought back to your reply when he had hoped that the girls won’t give up helping him.

‘Don’t worry Robert, they’ll keep helping you.  I’m sure they’ll help all of us.  Remember we’re all dance buddies now.’

 

Chapter 5: Mandy and the First Rules

For organisations to work they need rules. You’d think we’d get enough rules at work and that our leisure activities would need to be free of them.  But it’s as if humans need structure to operate effectively even when they are relaxing.  Take Golf Clubs: they have more rules embedded into their traditions than is good for them and, if that wasn’t enough, they have committees constantly creating new rules.  These committees then rule on the rulings.

Modern Jive Dance Clubs are not immune from having a rule book.  It’s one of the reasons why Modern Jive is a thriving dance community.  There are three rules that are reinforced at every opportunity – Rule 1: The guys are in charge.  Rule 2: Nobody should refuse an offer to dance.  Rule 3: The ladies can ask the men for a dance. 

You are a woman on a mission – to get your ironing done by seven o’clock.  You’d better crack on as you still have a top and skirt to iron for work tomorrow, and you could have done without the call from your BFF Linda.

‘So Mandy, are you coming down the pub tonight?  We missed you last week.  The guys were on great form.  It was such a laugh.’

The boys being on great form usually meant they were telling stories of drunken weekends watching England play rugby.  It just didn’t appeal anymore.

‘I’m sorry Linda, but I’m busy tonight. Its my dance class, remember.’

Your friend wasn’t impressed.  Your status as BFF was in question.  You had looked forward to your second lesson from the minute you got home from the first.  It had got off to a questionable start with the ‘speed dating to music’ stuff, but on reflection everybody was just being friendly.  In the end you had realised that the idea of working your way up the lines of male partners was in fact a good idea.  It meant you got to try the moves with more experienced dancers, and every time you were paired with another beginner it helped you realise that you weren’t the only one not quite getting it.

The beginners’ refresher lesson had been a great help.  Because there were just seven of you, it was easy to get to grips with the moves, follow your partner’s lead, and ultimately dance the sequence twice through without any mistakes.  You had then ventured back in to the main hall, where the second freestyle session was in full swing.

It was an amazing scene. So many people having a whole lot of fun and not a glass of wine in sight.  You couldn’t help but think about your friend Linda standing in the pub with the boys from work.  You had long been bored with it all, and here right in front of you was something so much more exhilarating.  You watched in wonder as couples danced seamlessly in unison.

You couldn’t help wonder just how long everyone had been doing it, and how long it would take before you were as good.  You couldn’t take your eyes of the dancers, and slowly became transfixed by one couple dancing right in front of you.  Though you knew the man would be leading (you remembered how the teacher had joked about Rule 1 – the men are in charge but only on the dance floor), but the couple seemed to be dancing in unison.  You guessed they had danced together for years.

As the dance ended your eyes followed the man as he chose his next partner.  To your surprise he asked Ellie, who you had met in the beginners’ class.  Again you were transfixed as he effortlessly guided Ellie across the floor.  You tried to spot if he did any moves from the lesson, but you recognised none.  So how did Ellie know what to do?  Perhaps you had misheard her when she said it was only her second lesson.

To your surprise the same dancer had then asked you for the next dance.  You now remembered with embarrassment how you had broken Rule 2.  When the dance ended the man had followed Ellie off the dance floor and then offered his hand to you.

‘Would you like to have a try?’

‘Oh. No thank you. Its my first night.’

He’d accepted your refusal with dignity, and went to find someone else. You instantly knew you had done the wrong thing and Ellie confirmed it.

‘Why didn’t you dance with him, you should have done.’

You had offered a frail excuse, ‘But I only know the three moves we did tonight.’

‘He knew it was your first night Mandy.  I’d already told him we were both beginners.  He’d have taken it easy and there’s a good chance you would have enjoyed it as much as I did.’

‘I feel terrible, Ellie.’

‘Look why don’t you ask him for a dance later?’

Rule 3: Remember the ladies can ask the men to dance.

As you finish off ironing the skirt for work, you think how you had bravely asked the guy in question to dance.  Ellie had been right about him taking it easy.  He had made sure that you had the rhythm, then he danced the three moves from the lesson.  What followed was a bit of a blur, as he led you through moves you had little idea about.  Somehow you managed to follow. You went wrong a couple of times, but each time he simply reverted to the basic move to ensure you had the rhythm again.  You still couldn’t believe you had completed a full dance track and enjoyed it so much.  Hopefully he’ll ask you again tonight, and Ellie will be there too.

 

Chapter 6: Robert keeps practising

Practice they say makes perfect, and it’s no more truer than when it comes to dancing.  You go to your first Modern Jive dance lesson and you learn your first three moves.  You go to your second one and you learn three more, but suddenly it dawns on you that you’ve forgotten the three you learnt the week before.  After you’ve worked so hard in the previous week’s lesson it can be quite disheartening to forget everything you were taught the previous week before.

Fortunately the human spirit is not so easily defeated, and if you just keep practising, one day you will realise that your arms and legs remember what they are supposed to do, without you actually telling them.  Getting the moves in to your muscle memory is quite an achievement, and its the point when the lessons become more fun.  Sadly some people struggle to remember – their muscle memory is still a blank – and they give up.

Though you cracked on and got the ironing done, you were still late for the start of the Beginners’ Class.  Much to your irritation your BFF’s other friend Jill had called as you pulled in to the car park.

‘Linda says you aren’t coming out again tonight.’

‘No.’

‘But you always come.’

‘Look Jill, I’m running late.’

‘It’s just that Graham was asking if you’d be there this week, and I told him I was sure you would be.’

‘Well tell Graham I’m washing my hair.’

‘Mandy he really likes you.’

‘Look Jill I’ve got to go. Bye.’

Your anger at Jill increased when you realised the lesson had started.  You paid your class fee and rushed in to the main hall. Everybody was paired up.  You looked anxiously up and down the lines to see if any of your new friends were there.  You quickly spotted Ellie, who smiled back as you caught her eye.  Next to her was Janice your fellow newbie.  You looked for Paula but it seemed she hadn’t arrived yet.

You scanned the rows of men.  There was Robert, as stressed out as ever and Peter.  Next to Peter was the experienced dancer who had given you that first full dance last week.  You’d promised yourself that if he asked you again you’d ask his name. Of course it wouldn’t mean anything.

As the women moved one guy up the line, you moved in front of the first man.  It was Andy from last week.

’It’s Mandy, yes?’

‘Yes. Have I missed much?’

‘No we’re just doing the first move still.’

The teacher on the stage explained the move again. Your face showed that you didn’t quite understand, but Andy was quick to put you at ease.

‘I did this move my first week. Just let me lead you.’

You did as he said, and to your surprise you completed the move at the first attempt.  To the command ‘One Lady on’ you moved up the line to the next guy.  Just like Andy he led you through the move, and once again you followed with little difficulty.

‘One lady on.’

Your next partner was Robert.

‘Oh hi Mandy.  I did this move a few weeks ago, but I can’t quite remember it even now.’

After being led so elegantly through the moves by the last two partners, it was quite a shock that Robert didn’t seem to have a clue and you weren’t much better.

‘Oh I’m sorry Mandy. I just struggle to remember the moves from the previous weeks.’

At the end of the lesson you went and found Ellie.

‘I didn’t think you were coming. I didn’t put you down as a quitter Mandy.’

‘No I’m determined to do this. I just got delayed by some work stuff.’

‘I think everyone’s here except for Paula.’

‘Yes I haven’t seen her either. You don’t think she’s given up?’

‘We had quite a chat after the lesson last week.  It seems her husband wasn’t too keen on her coming.  It was causing a few problems.  She was struggling with the moves a little, and I don’t think it was worth the hassle back home.’

‘That’s a pity. I liked her . . . ’

You were interrupted by Ellie being asked to dance by the experienced dancer you were keen to dance with too.  You watched as he once again guided your friend through the moves from the lesson and a couple you recognised from last week.  As the dance ended you saw him make his way towards you.  You’d ask him his name.  It wouldn’t mean anything.

But you would have to wait a little longer to know his name, as someone just beat him to ask for the next dance.

‘Oh Robert.’

‘Would you like to dance Mandy?’

You were about to make an excuse, when you remembered the protocol that you shouldn’t ever refuse the offer of a dance.

‘That would be nice Robert. Do you think you’ll remember the moves?’

*  *  *  *  *

That night as you drank the last cuppa before bedtime, you went over that dance with Robert.  You had been so disappointed that he had beaten the guy you had really wanted to dance with.  Your disappointment had been compounded by Robert’s lack of any notion as to how the dance moves, were supposed to be linked together in to something that half resembled a dance.  You pictured him again offering his apologies.

‘I’m sorry Mandy. I think I’m slowly getting it though.’

You were polite – well you couldn’t not be!

‘It will come Robert’

‘Do you think so Mandy?’

What happened next was, at the time, quite a roller coaster, but now it just made you smile.  You remembered Robert responding positively to your kind words.

‘I just need to practise a bit.  So could I have another dance Mandy?’

Your heart had sank, as you saw once again the mystery man approaching to ask you for the dance.  You’d thought about making an excuse.  If you could tell Graham you were washing your hair, when you obviously weren’t, you could surely get out of the torture that was the thought of a second dance with Robert.  But Robert had also seen the mystery man approaching and, being the polite soul he was, withdrew his request to dance.

‘Err, no. No, go ahead and dance with the other guy.  May be we could practise some more later ?’

As protocol would have it, you had found Robert later and, to your surprise, while his dancing was no better, his spirit was definitely lifted.

‘I think I’m getting it. I just need to keep practising.’

Robert, you still thought, wasn’t much good, but he wasn’t a quitter either.  Now you allowed your memory to recall your dance with the man you now knew as Malcolm.  It had been wonderful, but it didn’t mean anything.

 

Chapter 7: Andy gets the balance right

It seems that one of the drivers off evolution is to create more leisure time.  Advances in technology have led to ever more labour saving devises, and the general raising of living standards, have meant that we can now work less hours for the same level of income we enjoyed in the past.

Unfortunately its not quite turned out like that.  The more technology saves us time, the more we use that time to indulge ourselves in more technology.  We could be spending the extra time walking in the park and listening to bird song, but for some it just means more time watching our social media feeds.  We could all work less, but we seem to be working more.  It seems we need more and more money to buy more and more stuff.  The balance seems all wrong and simple pleasures seem to have gone out of fashion.

You are a successful male executive.  You have all the trappings of a successful career, but you have no time to yourself.  As you progressed up the corporate ladder, you took on more and more responsibility, and while you were good at delegating, your own work load just kept on growing.  Your work-life balance was tilted towards work.  But it didn’t matter because since your divorce your social life seemed to have petered out anyway.

Most of the friends you had when you were married, preferred to remain loyal to your wife, and the kids had long flown the nest.  Your friends were now your work colleagues, and there was little outside of work that took your interest, except perhaps, crashing out in front of the telly with a gin and tonic.

You knew there was more to life than work, even if it did pay for the Ferrari and Hugo Boss Suits.  You knew you had to find some kind of social outlet, to rediscover the simple pleasures of life.  Walking had never really appealed, and invitations to participate in sport had been turned down as often as offers to watch sport.

“So Andy, what are you doing tonight?’

His fellow director was just as shattered after a long day in the boardroom, but he thought they both deserved something better than a night watching more episodes of Game of Thrones.

‘I’ll just crash. Have a beer and get an early night.’

‘So you don’t fancy going dancing then?’

‘I haven’t got the energy Malcolm, and I don’t see how you have after a day like today.’

‘You use a different kind of energy Andy, and its amazing how good a stress buster it is.’

Your friend had been dancing for three years now, and by all accounts he was fairly good at it.

‘Another time maybe Malcolm.’

That ‘another time’ had finally come about five weeks ago, and now you wished you had taken up your friends offer months ago.  Malcolm was right – dancing used a different kind of energy.  In fact, rather than sap your energy, it seemed to revitalise you.  But this form of dancing had two further virtues; it was, as your friend had suggested a great way to relax, and secondly it had given you something you had been missing out on for years – friends from outside of your work.

You look around the beginners’ refresher class and they are all there including Robert.  He was the kind of guy you would have passed over at work, but this was somehow different – after all you shared a common goal with him.  You had progressed a lot faster than Robert, but that didn’t stop you wanting to support him in his struggle to smooth out his moves.

At the end of the refresher lesson you had suggested to one of your new dance buddies a way that might help Robert. In fact it might help all of you.

‘Ellie are you doing anything on Thursday Night?’

‘Why?’

‘Well I thought it might be an idea for a few of us to get together and practice.’

‘Who were you thinking of?’

‘Well you and Mandy maybe, myself and Robert and so we keep the numbers equal I also thought about asking Peter and Janice?’

‘Yeh, it sounds a good idea, but where would we meet? We’ll need some space.’

‘Well I’ve got a large games room at my house.’

‘Thursday night is good for me. I’ll ask the other two girls.’

‘Great, I’ll ask Peter and Robert. We can do some practice and then I’ll cook us all some food.’

In the final freestyle you had asked Mandy for a dance.  Though it was only her second lesson, and your fifth, the dance went extremely well.  At the end you were both complimentary to the other.

‘You led that really well Andy.’

‘Thank you.  Am I right, this is only your second lesson?’

‘Yes but I’ve always loved dancing.’

‘Well you’ve certainly got the rhythm for it.’

‘Thank you Andy.’

‘Did Ellie ask you about Thursday Night?’

‘Yes, but the problem is I’ve promised I’d go out with the girls.’

‘Oh well.’

Mandy had sensed your disappointment.

‘I’ll try to get out of it. Who’s coming?’

‘Well, Robert for definite.  I’m sure if he gets a chance to practice between lessons it will really help him.  I also asked Peter, but he thinks he’ll be working late.  Ellie and Janice are up for it, so if Peter can’t make it I’ll ask my friend Malcolm.’

As you drove home you felt pleased that you had asked your new friends round for a practise session.  You were sure it would benefit them all.  Janice had been particularly pleased.

‘Can we practice spinning?’

In the lesson the teacher had spent time teaching the women how to spin.  The girls do a lot of spinning in modern jive and it was important for them to get the technique right at an early stage.  You couldn’t help but smile to yourself, as you recalled Janice saying how difficult she found spinning on the spot.

‘I struggle with my balance.’

The magic word ‘balance’.  You remembered the fun you had had that first lesson.  You had vowed there and then that you would get the balance right between work and pleasure.  Inviting your new friends round was a big step in that direction.

As you put the Ferrari in the garage you remembered another moment involving one of your new found friends.  You hadn’t realised the significance at the time, but now it made you smile.  Right at the end Mandy had come rushing up to you.

‘Did you say Malcolm would be coming to make up the numbers?’

‘Yes. He’s a really good dancer. I thought he could give us a few tips.’

‘Yes he’s a lovely dancer. Look Andy, I’ll definitely be there on Thursday.  I’ll call my friend Linda.  She’ll probably be cross with me again, but I love my dancing, and I just want to get better.’

You couldn’t help smiling as you had wondered if it had meant anything.

 

Chapter 8: Andy makes a good first impression

When we first ask someone to dance we know very little about them.  There’s not really a lot we need to know.  We do however need to know two things.  The first is the level of their dancing.  If you are a beginner it might not be a good idea to ask the best dancer in the room.  You’ll probably feel more comfortable dancing with someone of your own level.  Secondly you might want to know they are friendly.

Most people are, but some are more friendly than others, and a friendly face is less likely to turn you down your offer of a dance.  Other than that we know very little.  We have no clue to the job they do, and we have even less of an idea if they are successful or otherwise.  Dancing is a great leveller.  People from all walks of life will share the same dance floor.  Your only concern is to enjoy dancing with your partner, and it would never occur to you to guess the size of their mortgage.

You are really excited. It is a long time since you had invited friends over.  You’d had colleagues from work round, of course, but it had hardly been relaxing.  Too easily the conversation turned to the problems of reaching the new targets you’d set in an effort to grow the business.  This would be different, mainly because they would be little conversation – there was little need for it.  Tonight was for dancing.

It was a chance to practice without worrying what other people were thinking of you.  Your dance buddies were all at a similar level, and they all wanted to help each other.  They would be here soon, and you still had to move the pool table to the edge of the games room.  Then you would have a large clear area to dance on.

Ellie was the first to arrive. ‘What a lovely house Andy.’

‘Thank you.’

Robert made a similar comment, ‘Wow Andy nice place.’

Of course you were allowed to be proud of your house, but you didn’t want your material success to distract from an evening with your new found friends., so you started to feel a little uneasy when Janice actually asked how much the house had cost. Mandy was the only person not to comment on your home.

‘Thanks for inviting us all Andy.

Is Peter here?’

‘Yes he managed to get away from work on time.’

‘Oh, so Malcolm won’t be coming then.’

You were pleased to give Mandy the good news.

‘Yes he’ll be along a little later.  I thought it would help to have someone experienced on hand to help.’

After making sure your guests all had a drink, you got the evening going.

‘I thought that as Ellie is probably the best dancer amongst us, I’d ask her to be the teacher.’

Ellie was happy to take the lead.

‘Why don’t we start by doing the moves we learnt the other day.  I’ll partner Robert, Peter you pair up with Janice, and Mandy you dance with Andy.’

You had spent your whole business life telling others what to do, but now it felt good for some one else to be in charge and you to be just one of the guys.

‘Now we just need some music,’

‘Here, Ellie, just use the remote control.  I’ve sorted a playlist.  Just press the play button.’

From invisible speakers, in full surround-sound the strains of a dance track filled the room.  The friends then danced all three moves together.

‘That looked really good. Shall we all move round one, and do the moves twice through, with our new partner.’

The friends followed Ellie’s instructions and performed the moves better than they had in the class earlier in the week.

‘Well done everybody.’

Ellie then picked out one of her pupils for extra praise.

‘Robert that’s the best I’ve seen you dance.’

‘Thanks Ellie. I think it’s finally clicked.’

You’d started about the same time as Robert, but you seemed to pick it up a lot faster.  You’d noticed how he had struggled, but you were impressed that he’d never missed a lesson.  For all his discomfort at not being able to lead his female partner fluently through a full dance track, he had never given up.  You had secretly admired his determination and you were pleased that your little get together had obviously helped him.

Another person who impressed you was Ellie.  She was doing a great job in her new role as a dance teacher.  Once again she mixed up the couples, and then went slowly through a new routine that she seemingly made up on the night.  You couldn’t help wonder if she was a school teacher.

The evening had been a great success. Malcolm had joined them later, and though he was a lot more experienced than Ellie, he was happy to take a back seat and simply help out when anyone struggled a little.

‘That was great fun and thanks for the lesson on spinning.’

As requested by Janice, Ellie and Malcolm had spent time going through the technique of spinning.

Janice was particularly grateful, ‘I can see how I’ve been doing it wrong. I think I’ve got it now.’

After almost an hour of teaching Ellie had suggested that the group have a mini freestyle session.  Again everyone showed an improvement in their dancing, and they were all eager to show off their new found proficiency at next week’s class night.

Peter was particularly pleased with his new found confidence, ‘I Can’t wait to get on the dance floor again.  It’s so stressful having to lead your partner and its embarrassing when you get it wrong.  I think I’ll be able to relax and enjoy it a bit more.’

While your friends danced together you prepared a light meal.  You all then retreated to the conservatory, that overlooked the flood lit swimming pool.

‘This really is a wonderful place you live in Andy,’

‘I suppose I’ve been lucky Ellie.’

‘I suspect there’s more to it than luck Andy.’

You gave her a brief resume of your career to date, and then asked what she did, ‘You did that lesson really well this evening.  So are you a teacher then?’

‘Well I work in a school, but I’m not a teacher. I’m an assistant school admin officer.’

*  *  *  *  *

You had guessed she would have held a down a more senior role, but getting it wrong just proved that you never can tell just who you are dancing with.  First impressions can be misleading.  Robert’s job also surprised you.  Perhaps you were influenced by seeing him struggle to connect with the rhythm of the music, and seemingly always forgetting the moves he had been taught the week before.  You felt very humbled when Robert explained that he was a senior lecturer in engineering at the local university.

As you reflected on what had been a wonderful night with your new found dance buddies, you wondered what Mandy did in the world of work.  You hadn’t really had a chance to chat with her as she had appeared to disappear.  You had later realised that she had stepped outside, to sit by the pool with Malcolm.  They’d chatted together for sometime.  Perhaps his work colleague had found out what she did.  He’d ask him tomorrow.  He’d also ask him if it meant anything – them being outside – chatting.

There was one other thing to consider.  Ellie had made a suggestion at the end of the night.

‘Look we are all really doing well.  How about we all go to a freestyle together.  There’s one next weekend.  We’ll all get another lesson in the week before hand.’

You had actually been quite negative, ‘But we haven’t even moved up to the Intermediate Class.’

‘So what,’ Ellie was being quite persuasive. ‘We proved tonight we can do the beginners’ moves really well. You guys know enough moves to get through a whole track, and we girls can follow as long as the guys keep it simple.  We can always just dance with each other.  It will be a laugh. What do you think Robert?’

‘Yes I’m up for it.’

In your business life you had never shirked a challenge.  Surely you could make the leap.  Surely if Robert was keen to go to the freestyle, you could be equally enthusiastic, or sadly that good first impression wouldn’t mean much.

 

Chapter 9: Janice’s new dress

When you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself, nothing helps more than a compliment. ‘ You’re looking good’ works wonders.  Of course the compliment has to be sincere.  Someone saying ‘You’re looking good’ when actually you’re having a bad hair day or your clothes have seen better days isn’t really going to work. 

Some people would say that it’s time to get their hair sorted and buy themselves some smart new clothes.  But take care, because retail therapy can be expensive and sometimes wasteful.  That new dress does look fabulous on you, but when exactly are you going to wear it?  Its not quite the thing for the office and it won’t get you any compliments hanging in the wardrobe.

You are excited, but also a little nervous.  Tomorrow is the Freestyle Dance.  You were really keen when Ellie suggested it last week, but suddenly you’re wondering if it was a good idea after all.  You’ve only had three lessons, plus the practice night at Andy’s, and there was also the matter of what to wear. Is it smart, or smart casual. Perhaps you should give Ellie a call.

‘Hi Ellie, its Janice.’

‘Oh hi. Are you looking forward to tomorrow?’

‘Well yes, but I was just wandering about what to wear.’

‘I spoke to Malcolm at the class this week and he says that anything goes really, but I’m getting dolled up. I’ve treated myself to a new dress.’

‘I was just going to wear trousers and a top. What do you think?’

‘I’m sure that will be fine Janice, but its just that I never really get a chance to dress up these days.  The freestyle gives me a good excuse’

‘Oh one more thing Ellie. Can I take you up on the offer of a lift?’

‘Yes of course.  Andy’s coming about seven to pick me up. We should get to you about seven thirty.’

‘What about Mandy.  Is she still coming?’

‘Oh yes, but Malcolm’s giving her a lift.’

‘Yes, of course he is.’

Were you really only going to wear trousers and a top?  What about the dress hanging in the wardrobe.  Sometime ago, when your life was a little flat, you treated yourself to a vintage style Rock ‘n’ Roll dress.  You promised yourself you would one day go to lessons and wear it to a proper dance.  You are worried its a bit too showy.  Perhaps if you could really dance it would be OK, but you’ve only done three lessons.

Your phone rings. It’s Mandy.

‘Janice can I ask a favour.’

‘Sure.’

‘I wondered if you could give me a lift to the freestyle.’

‘I’m actually getting a lift from Andy, but weren’t you going with Malcolm?’

‘Well I was but…’

‘Look I’m sure Andy will pick you up too.  I’ll sort it, just text me your address.’

‘Thanks Janice. Oh one more thing, what are you wearing?’

‘Oh just trousers and a top.  What are you wearing Mandy?’

‘I bought this great dress.  It flares out when you spin.  I always wanted a real dance dress.’

‘It sounds lovely. I’ll see you later.’

*  *  *  *  *

Robert had got to the venue early and saved a table close to the dance floor.

‘Thanks for doing that Robert.’

‘That’s OK Ellie, I thought it would be a good idea if we all sat together. Safety in numbers’.

Robert was obviously a little anxious about being out of his comfort zone – not that he was ever comfortable near a dance floor.  He had though done really well at Andy’s the other week, and at last week’s class he seemed more confident than he ever had.  Peter soon joined the group.

‘Well here goes then. Hopefully we’ll all get some dances.’

Ellie always the positive one chipped in. ‘Of course we will, and we can always  dance with each other.’

You scan the room.  Your first look located one other woman you recognised from your class night.  You weren’t surprised to see her as you already had her down as an experienced dancer.  Then you notice a group of men, who again were long past the beginners stage.  You are a little anxious.  Sure you could dance with your friends, but it would be nice to be asked to dance by someone else.  Memories of being a wallflower at the school discos, came back to make you a little less confident, than when you first walked through t,he door.

‘What do you want to drink Janice?’

The boys sorted out the drink orders and headed for the bar. Before you could have any more thoughts as to whether it was a good idea to have come after just three lessons, both Mandy and Ellie were asked for a dance.  Alone at the table you watched them both take to the floor.  Both of your friends looked fabulous.

Ellie, as she had promised, had really gone to town.  She had obviously spent some time at the hairdressers and bought a lovely dress to compliment her shapely figure.  Mandy was obviously wearing her new dress too, and you watched as it flared and rose teasingly just above the knee.

The boys returned from the bar just as the next track was starting.

‘Come on Janice, lets have a dance.’

You smiled at Robert as he led you on to the floor.  You were grateful that he had stopped you descending in to the doldrums any further, but it didn’t help that your two girlfriends were immediately asked on to the dance floor, by two of the experienced men you had recognised earlier.

After Robert led you back to the table, Andy asked how it had gone.

‘Yes we did well.’

‘So can I have the next one Janice?’

‘Of course you can Andy.’

Andy asked you to dance quite a few times.  He asked Ellie and Mandy too of course, that was when they weren’t being asked by supposedly every other male in the room.  You danced with Peter too.

‘It was a good idea to come as a group.’

Peter like yourself had only had three lessons, ‘I don’t think I’d have had such a good time if I couldn’t dance with you, Ellie and Mandy.’

‘Haven’t you asked any one else Peter?’

‘A couple may be, and I was asked by two women I didn’t know.’

‘Good for you Peter.’

Andy too had asked a couple of faces he didn’t know and you had spotted one rather attractive woman asking him several times.

It was however a different story for Robert. He had led you round the floor quite well in that first dance, and you had assumed he would have a good night.  Unfortunately the next woman he asked to dance, turned out to be one of the most experienced in the room, and she was not well pleased to suffer a three minute dance, with a man who could only do beginners moves.

From that moment on his confidence was shot, and though he danced with his friends a few times, he excused himself at half past ten to go home. There was no way Ellie and Mandy were going home until the last dance was over, and so it wasn’t until after midnight that you and your remaining friends had a chance to exchange stories.

*  *  *  *  *

Both Ellie and Mandy had both been asked if they were coming to the freestyle next weekend, and Peter had been surprised how many women he had asked to dance.  Andy had danced the last three dances with the same woman.

‘Was that the one who kept asking you?’

Andy was initially reluctant to answer, but as he drove them home he let out, that he had arranged to see her at the freestyle next week. As you sat in the back of Andy’s car you recalled the vision of Ellie and Mandy constantly dancing with a new male partner. You couldn’t help but compliment them.

‘You two looked fabulous in those dresses.’

Ellie piped up first, ‘I’m really pleased I made the effort.  I’m sure it helped.’

‘I’m sure it helped me,’ added Mandy, ‘I got so many compliments about my dress.’

Andy dared to give a male perspective, ‘You both looked gorgeous. It was really difficult getting a dance with either of you.’

As Andy dropped your friends off you moved in to the front seat.

‘So is it a date, you meeting this girl at the freestyle next week?’

‘No, but it will be nice to think I can dance with her.  She’s a lovely dancer and she was really patient when I went wrong.  So Janice, with all that talk about Ellie and Mandy we didn’t ask you what kind of night you had.’

‘Quite wonderful really. I couldn’t believe how many dances I got.’

Andy had offered an explanation, ‘It probably had something to do with that gorgeous dress you were wearing.’

You had had a wonderful night and, as you hung your Rock ‘n’ Roll dress back on its hanger, you smiled to yourself.  You too had been complimented on your dress, and one man had actually told you how gorgeous you looked.  Were you really going to go in just trousers and a top?

You thought again of the man who had paid you the compliment. As well as being charming, he was also a lovely dancer.  He’d been patient with you when you had misread his signals, and he had also taught you a few more moves.  It turned out that he was a regular at the weekend freestyles, and had also asked if you were going next week.  You knew you had a family engagement next weekend, but you told him that you’d hope to see him again in the future.

Your dress hung neatly inside, you closed the wardrobe door.  You next thought was of Mandy.  You wondered why Malcolm had backed out of his offer to give her a lift.  He’d still come, and had joined Mandy and her friends at the table.  However you couldn’t actually remember them dancing together.  Not surprising when you think about the number of other men she danced with.

You pictured again Mandy in her new dress.  You saw Ellie equally gorgeous in her outfit.  It had been a wonderful night.  You opened the wardrobe door and took another look at the dress you had waited so long to wear.  Yes, it had been a wonderful night.

 

Chapter 10: Paula and Robert – Comings and Goings

Life is never straight forward.  Even when you are fully focused on achieving new goals there are things that stand in the way sometimes.  Somethings you can get over, but other things just overwhelm you, and ambitions can evaporate in front of your eyes.  The human spirit didn’t evolve by accepting set backs, but sometimes you just give in, even if only temporarily .

Hundreds of people start dance lessons in the hope of finding a new leisure activity that will fulfil them.  Sadly too many of these people disappear after only a few lessons.  Some will return and try again.  The reasons for these comings and goings are numerous and tell their own stories.

You were earlier than normal to your dance class, and you were pleased to Andy and Ekkie sat in the bar area.  It would give you a chance to chat about the great time you had at the freestyle the previous weekend.

‘You look happy Andy.’

‘Yes, still on a high from Saturday night.  I was just saying to Ellie that I was so pleased she suggested it.’

‘So when is the next one Ellie?’

‘There is one this weekend but I’ve something else on.  I know Mandy’s had to promise to go out with her girlfriends for once, so how about we all go to the one the following week?’

You are eager to know if the group will all get together again, ‘Will the other boys go Andy?’

‘I know Peter will, but I doubt Robert will.  He didn’t have a good time at the last one.  He was pretty down hearted as he left.’

Ellie was her usual positive self, ‘I’ll have a chat with him tonight.’

Peter soon joined you and also thought Robert might not go. ‘I had a chat with him just as he was leaving. He’d had a couple of bad experiences with some of the better ladies. One actually stopped the dance half way through. She complained he was tugging her.’

‘Oh dear, perhaps we should have danced with him a bit more.  Look I’ll talk to him.  I’ll make sure he has some nice dances tonight.’

‘You are good Ellie.’

*  *  *  *  *

Sadly Robert didn’t show up in time for the lesson to start, but someone else did.  She had arrived just as the lesson was starting so you didn’t get a chance to talk with her until the freestyle session afterwards.

‘Hello Paula.’

‘Hi, is it Janice?’

‘Yes.  So you’re back.’

‘Yes, long story.’

‘How did you get on in the lesson?’

‘I think I picked it up again quite well.  I struggled with the middle move, but everyone was patient with me, and I think I did alright.’

You were pleased that Paula didn’t have to wait long for a proper dance, as Peter took her on to the dance floor.  She had picked it up well and you were impressed just how good she was.  You’d make sure you told her about the freestyle next weekend.

You were soon asked to dance yourself. ‘Is it Janice?’

It was one of the guys you remembered from the weekend freestyle.  He’d remembered you were a relative beginner, and so he kept to the beginners’ moves you were familiar with.

‘You did really well.  Will you be going again to the freestyle this weekend?’

You were just about to explain that you and your friends were going the following week, when you realised that you could of course go on your own.

‘I wasn’t but I assume you are.’

‘Yes, look there’s a whole group of us who go every week.  You could join us. I’m Steve by the way.’

Before you could think about his kind offer a thought struck you.  Robert hadn’t turned up.  You’d hoped that we was just late, but there was no sign of him.

‘No Robert then Ellie.’

‘No. I’ll give him a ring Janice. I’d hate to think that he given up.’

You looked at the dance floor. It was packed. You spotted the rest of the group.  Andy was dancing with one of the crew members, who were there to help the beginners.  He was becoming quite a dancer, and you wondered how long it would be before he moved up in to the Intermediate Class.

Ellie too looked like she was ready to move up.  You spotted Mandy. She was dancing with Malcolm.  Occasionally she appeared to mis-interpret his signal, but as they went wrong they both just laughed it off.  They seemed very suited and you couldn’t help wonder if it meant anything other than they enjoyed dancing with each other.

*  *  *  *  *

That night, as with previous weeks, you played back some of the events of the night.  You thought how well your friends were doing.  You were doing well too.  Then you thought about Paula.  It was so good to see her come back.  You remembered your first night.  She had started a couple of weeks before you, and she’d reassured you after you had admitted you found the first three moves quite difficult to grasp.

‘Don’t worry. There’s a beginners’ refresher class and there are crew members to help. I was just like you on my first night, but everyone was so helpful and friendly’

That first night she had explained how she had always wanted to dance, but her husband wouldn’t go with her.  She had initially given up on her ambition to take dance lessons.  One day a friend had told her about modern jive dance classes where you didn’t need a partner, and she was quick to find a class.  Her husband had never really been comfortable with her going out dancing, and so, out of a sense of duty, she had decided to give it up.

‘One day I thought – hold on, this is my life too.  Is it so wrong to want to learn to dance.  I love my husband but this seemed unfair.  Thankfully he agreed that it was wrong to stop me doing something I’d always wanted to do.’

Before going to bed you do one last thing – you take a peak in the wardrobe.  Your beautiful dance dress is still where you hung it after the freestyle at the weekend.  You thought about your invitation to meet up with Steve and his friends.  Could you wear the same dress two weeks on the trot? Perhaps you should treat yourself to another.

 

Chapter 11: Can Robert dust himself down?

We’ve all read the motivation books.  Achieving success is apparently quite easy if you follow the guidelines.  First, decide on your goal, then second believe you can achieve it.  Third, imagine yourself having achieved your goal. I f your goal was to get a new car, imagine yourself driving it.  If it was promotion at work imagine yourself in your new position.

Fourth, don’t listen to anybody who says you’re a dreamer, that your goal is beyond your capabilities.  Fifth create a strategy and finally sixth – when you have a set back, just remind yourself of your goal and get back out there. I t is that easy.  May be not!  Steps one to four are fairly straight forward.  The fifth, getting the right strategy will take a bit of creativity, but it’s the last one where it can all fall down. It’s the dusting yourself down after a set back that’s the really difficult bit.

You are feeling pretty sorry for yourself.  It’s your dance class night, and for the first time in almost two months you are sat at home rather than gracing the dance floor.  You never really graced the dance floor actually, you were a little clumsy and couldn’t keep time very well.  Your feet never seemed to do what your brain wanted them to do, and you were pretty rubbish at leading your partner.  Just to prove it you were left standing in the middle of the dance floor last Saturday.

Now hold on.  You’re being a bit hard on yourself.  You weren’t ever clumsy.  OK, you forgot the moves in the beginning, but you had started to put them together quite smoothly.  You could keep time quite well now.  It was only if the tempo changed during the song that you struggled a little, but didn’t lots of people?  The feet thing wasn’t really a problem because the style of dancing was more to do with the arm actions and you’d got them sorted.  Finally, you could lead your partner.  Your friends Ellie, Mandy and Janice all said how much they now enjoyed dancing with you.

‘But Andy started the same week as I did and look how well he’s doing.  I started before Peter, but he was doing better than I was.’

Robert’s inner self had something to say about the situation, ‘Look Robert its not about Andy, Peter or anyone else for that matter.  Its about you.  It’s about the fact that you were making progress.’

Ever since Saturday night, you had battled with yourself, about whether you should give up your dancing dream.  The realism side of your brain had finally overwhelmed the side where your ambitions were nurtured.  Your despair was made worst by the fact that you had a track record of achieving your goals.  Your rise through the ranks at work were testament to your ability to keep focused and not let set-backs throw you off course.

*  *  *  *  *

You are considering going to bed when the phone rings.

‘Robert, it’s Ellie.’

‘Oh hi, how are you?’

‘I’m fine, it’s just that we all missed you tonight.’

‘Oh I forgot to tell you I had a pretty important meeting I couldn’t get out of.  You know how it is sometimes.’

‘Yes of course.  By the way Paula came back.  I think you started at the same time.  She asked about you.’

‘Pity about the meeting, it would have been nice to see her again.  How did she get on?’

‘She picked it up again really well, she’s going to come, with us all, to a freestyle the week after next.’

Why had you lied to Ellie about the meeting?  And more importantly why did you say you might not make next week either, due to more work commitments that were equally fictitious.  Hearing how Paula had got back in to the swing of it, was surely a chance for you to say how you’d hope to catch up again next week.  By the end of the conversation you suspected Ellie knew you were lying.

‘About the freestyle next weekend Robert.  You’re part of the gang remember.  We were all beginners together.  We’ll all be there, me, the three girls, Andy and Peter.  Oh and Malcolm of course.  We should all have a wonderful time.’

‘I’ll see Ellie, its just that work is so busy right now.’

You’d loved being part of that dance group.  They were so good to be around, and you all seemed to be so relaxed with each other.  Ellie was your favourite, but then she was everybody’s.  She was always so positive, and it had been her who had suggested they all go to the freestyle, even though they all had so few lessons.  Then there was Janice.  The one you thought was a plain Jane, until you saw her in that beautiful dress last Saturday night.

It was a shame you probably won’t be going back, because you’d love to dance with her again.  The guys, Andy and Peter, you enjoyed their company too.  Andy had been so good to invite everyone over for the practice night.  Then a thought about Peter.  What was it he had said to you that time?  You’d been on the verge of quitting, you were worried that the girls might give up helping you. What was it that he had said to reassure you?

As you lay in bed you thought again how thoughtful it had been for Ellie to call.  You’d call her tomorrow and own up to your dishonesty. You would tell her that you had decided to give up.  Your last thought was of Peter. You remembered what he had said.

‘Don’t worry Robert, they’ll keep helping you, remember we’re all dance buddies now.’

 

Chapter 12: The End of The Journey for Robert

There are two different types of journeys.  The first is the straight forward one.  You know where you’re going, you work out a route, get in the car and hey presto you arrive at your destination with the minimum of fuss.  The other type is a little more interesting.  It’s a bit of a mystery tour.  You have a vague idea where you’re going, but you certainly don’t have a route mapped out.  You’ll probably get lost and it will be stressful, but when you finally arrive, there will be a great feeling of satisfaction that you actually made it.  Every so often we should all go on that type of journey.

It’s Saturday afternoon, it’s cold and wet and you are feeling pretty sorry for yourself.  You missed the dance class again – another feeble excuse about work over running – and now all you had to look forward to was a night in front of the telly.  You could of course go to the freestyle dance tonight, but you felt your dance friends had given up with you.

It had been nice that Ellie had called you after you missed the first class night, but she had not been in touch this week.  Who could blame her.  You had had a text from Andy reminding you about the freestyle tonight, but it had been a little matter of fact – Freestyle this Saturday at The Community Centre.  Starts at 8. Andy.  Were the others going, would Janice be there?  Would he be welcome to sit with them?

When you’d set out for your first dance class you had seen it as a leisure activity, a challenge obviously, but something to fill one of your evenings.  You’d really enjoyed it, but not because of the dancing.  The dancing was in fact quite stressful.  No, the reason you had looked forward to it each week, was because of the friends you had made.

The dancing itself hadn’t been easy, but you had made progress, and then one night it had clicked.  You remembered with affection the night when you and your friends had met up at Andy’s.  That extra bit of practice, and the patience of your friends had helped you no end.  So what had happened?  You were about to relive the embarrassment of the freestyle night when your phone rang.

‘Robert its Janice.’

‘Oh hi, how are you?’

‘Yes I’m good. I just wondered if you were going tonight?’

‘Not sure. I’ve a bit of work to catch up on.’

‘Look, all the dance gang is going and Paula is back now and she’s joining us.’

‘I heard Paula was back, but…’

Janice interrupted you, ‘Look Robert, I know what happened at the last freestyle, but you were doing well.  We all have bad days.  I went on my own to a freestyle last week.  I’d been invited by a guy I’d met the time you were there, but it wasn’t the same.  I felt a bit left out to be honest.  I didn’t get many dances and I left early.  A bit like you did.’

‘It didn’t put you off then?’

‘Well it did, but tonight its all our friends from the class again, and it will be good fun.’

*  *  *  *  *

You got yourself showered and shaved, put on some nice clothes, and you went to the freestyle.  Your friends were really pleased to see you.  Mandy came rushing up and gave you a big hug.

‘Robert, good to see you – nice shirt.’

Ellie was a little more reserved, but equally pleased to see you. ‘Well done for coming Robert. I know you had a bad experience last time but it happens – ask Peter.’

Ellie had the first dance with you. Some moves came back quickly, but you struggled with the more difficult ones.

‘Just do the moves you can do well.’  Ellie was supportive as always, ‘We ladies appreciate it when we have a simple dance.  Some guys forget we are still relatively new at it, and it can get a bit disjointed when they try the more advanced stuff.’

In between dancing with your friends, and a few other friendly faces you recognised from your class night, you sat and chatted with Peter, Andy and Malcolm.

‘See that woman in the blue dress.’

Peter was explaining his unpleasant experience from the class night the other evening.  He pointed our a woman dancing very flamboyantly in the middle of the floor.

‘She actually refused me a dance.’

You recognised the woman in question, ‘She’s the one who left me in the middle of the floor last time.’

‘Well she told me she doesn’t dance with beginners.’

Malcolm, who remember had been around for a while, chipped in. ‘Most of the women, even the very experienced ones will happily dance with beginners, but you’ll soon learn the ones to avoid.’

*  *  *  *  *

When you signed up for that first lesson you thought it was just about learning some dance steps.  But it had been more than that.  It had been a bit of an adventure actually.  If you had known the stresses and pitfalls in advance you might not have set out on your dance journey.  But now sitting at home you were so pleased you did.

You thought back to more of the chatter from the evening.

‘So Robert, are you ready for the Intermediate Class?’  Andy had apparently moved up last week.

‘How was it?’ ‘Terrifying!’

Malcolm had offered more of his experience, ‘It’s hard for everyone to make the jump to the intermediate class, but you can’t stay in the beginners class for ever.  Mandy’s going to give it a try next week.’

You’d perhaps give the beginners one more week – you had missed the last two after all.  Now you resolved that, no matter how stressful it might be, you would eventually move up to the Intermediate lesson.  You were not ready to end your dance journey just yet.  Nor it seemed were any of your friends.  Who knew where it would take them.  But that was the thing about journeys.

There was one last thought.  Perhaps he’d found someone to go on the journey with him.  You remembered now how lovely Janice had looked again.  She had bought herself another new dress and she had looked wonderful.  She had been so pleased to see you.

‘You came then? Love your shirt.’

You realised now why she had called you, why she had encouraged you to give it another go.  You remembered, with affection the end of the phone call.

‘I know you struggled with the moves Robert, but you are a nice man, and we all loved dancing with you, even if at times you go wrong.’

That night you and your dance friends had walked back to the car park together, reliving the events of the night.  The guys talked about the girls they had danced with.  The girls enthused about each other’s dresses.  Mandy you noticed had her arm through Malcolm’s.  As you pressed your key fob to open your car door, Janice came over.

‘Robert, do you fancy a coffee some time?’

By | February 1st, 2017|Beginners Dance Journey|2 Comments

About the Author:

A Modern Jive Dancer with a passion for Dance Music. In my Blog I hope to offer reviews of the music we dance to, and the Classes, Freestyles and Weekenders we love dancing at.

I started dancing eight years ago at The Ceroc Passion dance class at Rolls Royce in Derby. I remember what it was like being a beginner and I always try to make the beginners classes now. I'm a great believer that we should support beginners through their first lessons, in the hope they will get the Modern Jive Bug.

Disco dancing in the early seventies I became a lover of Motown and Soul music. During the next ten years I also got into Northern Soul and Funk. In the eighties my dance hero was Niles Rogers of Chic.

I now dance at least three times a week in my local area of Nottingham, but also travel more widely around the country to write reviews of new venues.

With my Soul Boy roots I'm an advocate for more Motown being played at Freestyles.

2 Comments

  1. Peter July 14, 2017 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Guy .. Fun to read but you have already forgotten the stresses of being a real beginner.! I am going through this experience at the moment and am loving the classes but freestyle is way too scary!! Being a man beginner is much more difficult as we have to lead.The ladies learn how to follow and they are good to go .. we however have to learn to improvise and that takes knowledge and courage. I have been learning for a year and love it but my one freestyle experience was not good. I have learnt quite a few complex moves and have moved up to intermediate level quite easily but….. being in a class and someone prompting you for the next move is ok .. being able to improvise is another story entirely !! it is probably a question of confidence ….. any tips??
    Peter

    • Paul Jeffery July 15, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

      Hi Peter. Pleased you enjoyed the story. I’ve just started writing a much fuller complete story about these 6 characters, and that will give me time to go into a little more detail about the stress you talk about. As you say I’ve long forgotten just how stressful it was learning to lead, but I do see that stress etched on the faces of all the beginners. I do try to encourage people not to give in, but sadly the fallout rate is very high. Your question about tips has prompted me to write a post about the stress of being a male beginner – give me a week. In the meantime the best tip I can give is find the friendly faces in the room. I was given lots of help by ladies who were very patient with me. Secondly start going to more freestyles. You’ll be surprised how many ladies are as inexperienced as yourself. Many of them will quickly tell me that they are beginners. There’s no reason why you can’t say the same when you ask them to dance. You’ll learn to spot the inexperienced ladies, and you can all help each other. Look out for the tips posting next week, and thanks for sharing your experience. Paul

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