Week 11: Dancing the Smooth Jive

Week 11 of my Comfort Zone Challenge saw me enter the realms of Ballroom dancing.

For those of you that know me even slightly well, you’ll know I cannot dance at all. I seem to have an awkward posture and a terrible feel for rhythm when it comes to dancing. In fact, it’s only once I’ve had quite a lot to drink that I tend to stray away from Hitch’s advice of elbows 6 inches from the chest at a 90 degree angle, and a rock from side to side. Once the drink is flowing, the air disks and air guitars have been known to make an appearance, but standing by the bar and bopping my head is my usual go too!

I was invited, by my god mother, to take part in a smooth jive class. Fair to say, if I’m bad at dancing in a club, under no pressure, dancing in a class with people who actual want to dance well, was going to be tough.

Upon arrival, a few people were already dancing in the village hall. These guys were definitely not beginners, which straight away made me think I was going to be out of place. Throughout the evening, I was told everyone starts somewhere and reminded how my god father did it, and if he could do it, I could do it. I tended to agree with this notion. (Sorry, Frank)

The session was ran by Kane and Helen, and within the group were what are called ‘taxis’, whose role is to help beginners/intermediates dance, by being there to dance with. Contrary to what I thought, the age range of the people there ranged from 18 to at a guess late 60s. The session started by a step by step walk through of a dance to learn. The men stood on the outside inwards towards Kane, who gave out the instructions.

You would do one move with a woman, and then all of the women would go clockwise in a circle and dance with another man. This meant every time there was a swap, I’d have to apologise to the new woman. “Hey, I’m Tom. I’m really sorry, this is my first time, and I can’t dance”. Most would reply an answer along the lines of “of course you can dance” or “oh don’t worry, you’ll love it”.

The first few times, I could not get my head around the moves in question. I was like Mr Tickle from the Mr Men books. Arms flying everywhere, and getting into a tangle with the women. What made it so hard, is that the male has to lead the dance, and as a beginner it’s borderline impossible to lead another person, when you can’t even do your own bit!

Eventually, I started to get the idea, and as one woman came back around the circle I had the stupidity to say.. “It’s fine, I’m becoming a pro at this now”…… Queue the cock up.

What was clear, everyone that was there loved these sessions. In my mind, it was going a bunch of women that wanted to dance, and their husbands that had been forced to come along with them. It may well have started like that, but all the blokes there seemed to be loving it. Everyone was up for a laugh. I laughed so much (mostly at how bad I was) but everyone would just laugh along with you.

After the beginners had a bit of technical coaching and the intermediates had learnt a more robust dance, the music was just played and we entered what they called ‘Freestyle’. This was a chance to chat or just dance into the night. I chatted with a few people, and they assured me that all men start out like me and it’s all about practice. A few of the older ladies, were keen to let me know, becoming a good dancer is a good way to ‘woo’ the women. I’m a long way off that I’d say!

There were some incredible dancers there, and I had a few dances with a couple of women in the freestyle before I thought it was time to go. I left around 10pm and the freestyle was still in full swing! No idea what time it ended, it could still be going on now for all I now! They certainly out lasted me. I did promise one of the ladies it wouldn’t be the last they saw me, so I guess I have no choice to return one day. (I secretly want to go back, it was good fun)

You can see in the short clip below, some of the moves I was busting. Yeah.. Agreed, I don’t think even Len Goodman would give me a seven for that dance! Room for improvement, at least!

I’ll be doing two challenges for charity in the coming months. One a fire walk for the Sara Lee Trust, and the other a sky dive for Samantha Beaven who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. If you would be willing to donate to either causes, I would be hugely appreciative. The links are below:




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