The late seventies and eighties were full of great dancing movies; Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Footloose, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing and during that time my friends and I spent many an evening standing on the edge of a crowded dance floor awkwardly shuffling our feet. I once won a dance competition; really, I was simply trying to wriggle my way through a packed dance floor (rather unsuccessfully) to get to the bar to order some drinks. The DJ stopped me as I wormed my way past and told me that I had won third prize and gave me a small bottle of scotch – which was handy as I was going to ask for a scotch when I got to the bar – result! (Obviously the competition on the floor must have been particularly dire!)
There aren’t many things I’m not a total expert at; dry walling, electrics, plumbing (both male and female), auto repairs, working jack hammers, mowing lawns, computers, knitting dollies, forking, Rubiks Cube, introspection, walking on water, making marmalade and rustling up a four course meal from a near empty fridge but there’s one area where I fall down – and when I say fall down I mean that literally because it’s dancing. I really can’t get the hang of it but it’s not like I haven’t tried. We Irish are meant to have a natural rhythm but when I try dancing it’s like some mischievous little leprechaun has tied my shoelaces together and I keep falling over. I’m like a grizzly bear that’s been shot with a tranquilliser gun, I lurch all over the place crashing into everything and everyone. I’m the Irish version of Patrick Swayze – Paddy Sways (a lot!). Agnes de Mille said that the truest expression of a people is in its dance and music, if that’s the case then we Irish are in big trouble..
When I was a teenager in the late seventies I would try to strut my funky stuff to Michael Jacksons ‘Blame It On The Boogie’ in BJ’s disco – which is funny for a number of reasons; not just because I looked like Steven Hawkings trying to escape the confines of his wheelchair but ‘boogie’ is something you only find in your handkerchief in Northern Ireland, not on the dance floor and BJ’s (seriously) was the name of the place we practised our lurching. We were so naive them days.
Readers of a certain vintage will remember Boris Yeltsin dancing in a similar style in the 90’s, it seems somewhat appropriate that it’s the bear that represents Russia because his dancing was just as bad as mine..
Actually, on second thoughts he looks like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever compared to my groovy moves.
You may think I’m exaggerating and wonder about Irish dancing (and Riverdance) but what you don’t know is that Irish dancing is a direct result of the Irish inability to dance with any style or grace at all. Irish dancing has only been around since Riverdance, I can’t find anyone who’s heard of Irish dancing before it burst on the scene. It’s not well known that Irish dancing only started only a few years before Riverdance and it’s even less well known that it was me who started it. You see, I started going to dancing lessons in the early eighties in the hope of emulating John Travolta – this time in his Grease incarnation – but after a few lessons the instructor got so fed up with me that he gave me the following instructions; I was to stop flailing my arms around like a windmill on speed (and he literally strapped my arms to my sides!) and then he told me to imagine I was standing on red hot coals.. three seconds later I had invented Irish dancing. You can thank me later Michael Flatley.
A few years ago I bravely went to do Cerok dancing with a friend in Putney and the evening started off okay, about a dozen of us newbies and the instructor trying to teach us a few basic moves; turn, swivel, twist, pull and repeat ad nauseam, ad nauseam being the correct term here because I was sick of it within minutes. However, I persevered trying to get the swing of it (groan) and foolishly imagined even with my kack-handed attempts I was starting to get the hang of it but at 8pm the hall started to fill up with the regulars and everything speeded up big time. There weren’t that many blokes there and apparently it was bad manners to refuse a dance so I spent the rest of the night being passed around from (expert) dancer to (expert) dancer. It was like being thrown to the wolves, I barely got out alive and never went back.. It was like that time I went ski-ing, three mates and I walked into a hotel disco and there were no blokes there, just a room full of woman and a Mexican wave of ‘BOYS!’ spreading across the dance floor.
So in a last ditch desperate effort to improve my dancing technique I started going to ballet lessons here in London. I really threw my heart and soul into it, even forsaking my drinking buddies to practice my technique, it was a tough job but I suppose someone had to do it. One of my friends took his video camera along to show just how much my technique has improved over the years, I hope you agree that it was worth it.
Next month I’m starting Pole Dancing lessons. How hard can it be?