Strict Lee’s Ballroom

Every day I come to the computer screen and it sits there implacably in its blank slate state. Some days I have nothing to say or I’m just to tired to feel I’ll make any sense so I leave it blank. Today feels a bit like one of those days but then I was thinking about why I feel so worn out on the way to work this morning and I reminded myself I’m not doing very much exercise.

So I was thinking about exercise. I haven’t been to karate for four months. That’s bad. And the gym keep sending me these emails saying, “We haven’t seen you. Where are you?” and I write back and say, “I’m here, camouflaged!” but sending these literary pearls to the gym swine isn’t really getting the blood flowing around my veins. Most days it feels like an effort walking from the station to home. I’d much rather take the bus.

The thing with the gym is always, “What’s the goal?” And that’s also the thing with most exercise–why do it? Yes, yes, it will save my life and make me feel good and sound soothing sleep and so on. Ahhhh. But really, it’s just harshness in a soft world isn’t it? Can you kick it? Yes, we can.

So I was thinking about what I used to really enjoy doing, which was going to salsa, and I was wondering why I don’t do that any more. I gave it up when I started going out with someone who didn’t understand why it’s fun–or can be fun, and incredibly sexy–to dance with a partner.

Incidentally, I seem to know a lot of women like that–independent modern British woman dances to her own tune, on her own, thankyouverymuch. But more than one (of the same type) has said, “What I really want is a cottage with roses around the door and a hubby and two point four kids.” Well, guess what–you have to dance with someone (metaphorically speaking), give up the indepen-dance, to make those dreams real.

I’m sure that will provoke a few thoughts here but back to the plot…

Dancing. There was actually a goal, and the goal was to feel confidant enough to go to cool dance clubs in London. Every week my friend, Nicola and I would go along to the local clubs and do the lessons and spend the night dancing with people. It was really good.

Bonus: if you go dancing with a girl who’s a friend, as opposed to a girlfriend, it takes the pairing-up pressure off. Women don’t feel that you asking them to dance is some kind of come on and so I got to dance with practically all the women at the local clubs, big and small, shy and confidant, beginners with two left feet and snooty girls who knew everything and tutted a lot if I missed a beat. There were a lot of very good people between those extremes. So my dancing actually improved. And that does wonders for your self-esteem.

Eventually, after about a year, Nicola and I felt going up to London would be cool and off we went, no doubt full of images conjured by Strictly Ballroom where everyone who goes to a big latin dance club is really into dancing. Now here’s the thing–everyone who goes to a big latin dance club is *not* really into dancing. What we quickly found out was there were a handful of superb dancers (literally about six) and loads and loads of guys who were the worst kind of dance club pigs.

Here’s what your average dance club pig does: they ask a girl to dance then lift them across their leg and grind it into their groin for the whole seven or eight minutes of the track while they gyrate their hips. They don’t actually move or dance other than that but leer horribly at their partner. I don’t quite understand how they think this is attractive or sexy or anything. It’s actually quite sickening to watch and, following on from my thoughts above, I can totally see why so many women would rather do the indepen-dance thing.

Nevertheless, the first London club we went to was full of these leery greasy guys hanging on to the walls like vampire bats and frankly it was the thing that started putting me off the whole thing. Then when a girlfriend came along who didn’t want to go any more, it was actually quite easy to give it up. Plus Nicola had partnered off with my French buddy, Jaffa, and he doesn’t do dancing. A man of few words, he does grinning, stories, cabinet making, wine and would chain-smoke very thin roll-ups if Nicola let him.

So dancing was no more. The goal had gone and there was someone new in its place and life was fun and so on (and so forth). And yet now, time has passed and that girlfriend is long gone, the dust has settled, and I’m thinking, hmmm, salsa–that felt good. I don’t know if I’d take it up again, but it was definitely fun when it was the small local hall and a few people, all ages, shapes and sizes. On that scale, in that atmosphere, I highly recommend it.

One Response to 'Strict Lee’s Ballroom'

  1. Laura Says:

    Didn’t I reply to this one? Or one like it? I think you ought to post my reply as a comment here. For posterity, you know.