After Come dance strictly, Alexandra Fraser convinced her partner to join her on a seven-week ballroom dance class in London to find out how difficult it really is to learn what is fast becoming an endangered art.
âI’m really looking forward to it tonight. “
Glancing at my phone from the Grade II listed Georgian on my screen doesn’t bring a little surprise. After all, what sane adult man is excited to spend an hour every Monday night standing in a church hall learning the Quickstep?
The circumstances of this SMS are the result of a terrible truth that was revealed to me when I reached the happy age when friends and relatives begin to form a couple in the name of marriage: we, as a nation, forgot how to dance.
Of course at weddings we jump up and down to Mr. Brightside with the exuberance of 10 week old puppies who just spotted their dinner. But the blatant lack of grace, style, and decorum on the last such occasion I attended made it clear that it couldn’t really be called dancing.
A few months before this text arrived, a friend had mentioned a dance school in central London that organized dance lessons for adults. Glad to find that I was not alone in my salsa search, I eagerly booked a seat in Vera The Diva’s seven-week New Beginners Ballroom & Latin course for me and my partner – after all, it takes be two to tango.
‘”You have to stop chatting and concentrate” he told me sternly’
After carefully preparing my arguments in my head – âIt’s such a shame that no one is dancing anymoreâ¦ It will be a great experience to bondâ¦ We can dance with all the Christmas chocolateâ¦ I will leave you if you say noâ – I finally broached the subject of dance lessons and for a moment encountered, albeit extremely disappointing, “Yes, I would love to.” It looks great. When do we start? ‘
Vera The Diva’s Beginner’s Classes are held every Monday and Thursday at their school in Clapham, Tuesdays at the school in Covent Garden and are as flexible as a busy Londoner could hope for. After inevitably missing our first session on the 7the – I won’t say who’s to blame, but it wasn’t mine – we arrived on time, wearing thin-soled shoes, jeans and T-shirts.
Unfortunately, Henry’s neon leggings were washing.
If you’re nervous about dancing in front of a dozen strangers, don’t be. It was immediately clear that everyone was in exactly the same boat as us, even with a whole hour more dancing experience than us. Edurne Goldaracena (the wonderful lady whose idea we came across, founder and co-director of Vera la Diva) warmly welcomed the class and so we started.
âI started to believe that by the time we got together, we would be performing around the room on Edurne’s jazzy soundtrack with the grace inherent in the professional dancers of Strictly. No chance.
Our warm-up was a sassy salsa routine that was fun and easy to learn. My favorite moment was the call to âchange partnersâ and the distinct panic displayed on every male face (and some women) in the room. Handing over my Fred to another Ginger, I learned my first crucial dance lesson: it’s important to change partners every now and then to clear up the question of who is in fact to blame if someone’s foot is. was enthusiastically trampled on. This time he was my fault.
The lesson itself began with the Waltz, a great foray into the world of dance if ever there was one. Standing on the opposite side of the room from Henry, pacing the female steps in an imaginary hold, was delightfully simple – the steps were carefully explained and developed at a pace that made the whole class move as one. I began to believe that by the time we got together, we would be filming the room on Edurne’s jazzy soundtrack with the inherent grace of Strictly professional dancers.
No chance. His grip was loosely held at best and my footwork was, in a nutshell, terrible. Another call to change partners came, but the brief loss of circulation in my right hand kept me exactly where I was. “You have to stop chatting and concentrate,” he told me sternly. I started to worry about the kind of waltzing monster I had created.
“When the clock struck nine, we were moving around the room injury-free and quite happy that our missed lesson was made up three days later.”
A few more minutes of careful counting and his lead had improved a lot, my frame was better and I only stepped on his foot gently three times. A slight disagreement as to whether we were on music time almost separated us for good, but overall when the clock struck nine we were moving around the room injury-free, and rather happy that our missed lesson was made up by three days. later, bringing us back to the boogie much earlier.
With Waltz down and Cha Cha Cha, Salsa, Rumba, Argentinian Tango, Jive and Social Foxtrot before us, Strictly better be careful.
Vera the Diva’s Beginner’s Classes cost Â£ 82 per person for seven weeks and are open to couples and individuals – details at www.verathediva.com. Alexandra and Henry will be back in a few weeks, as long as Henry doesn’t lose his temper.