Saturday, January 22, 2011


There are dancers and there are trudgers. The trudgers march stodgily around the floor, or jiggle and hop on the spot as though dislodging spiders. They are dragged to a lesson two days before their weddings. The dancers – ah the dancers!

There was the Cypriot boy I was in love with at boarding school who, judging by the glint in his eye, probably grew up wicked and embroiled with the Turkish mafia – or at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea wearing concrete boots. He was a dancer. When I was seventeen, there was the lonely teak-man in Rangoon waiting for his wife to come out and join him. Except when we danced once with each of the other people in the party as custom then demanded, he and I danced together all night and said not a word. He was a divine dancer.

Real dancers are not necessarily people who have learned steps and know the difference between a waltz and a rugby scrum. They are people whose bodies feel the rhythm and respond instinctively. They don’t care whether it’s ballet, dirty dancing, strictly ballroom, rock ‘n roll, black bottom, frug, robot or the twist – they just do it.

Down here at my level – love to dance, feel the rhythm, a bit past zumba (I would kill to be young enough to try zumba) – there’s always line-dancing. Along with the morris and rain variety, admitting to enjoying line dancing brings about a dizzying whirr of rolling eyes and muffled laughter. So what? Any dancing is for the fit and frisky, and is thought to keep dementia at bay – well, whatever helps is OK by me.

You can do it any time, by yourself, up and down the hall at home. But it’s more fun in a group and you don’t have to drag along an unwilling partner, who is probably busy at home with more urgent matters involving the remote control. There is no need to be under thirty. Or skinny. Fancy dress is optional, but forget the lycra. However there is a look: thumbs hooked into the belt or jeans pockets, maybe a fringed leather waistcoat with dangling hardware in the form of buckles and chains, a cool stare.

However, you can go too far. Cowboy hats look ridiculous. Dressing up like Calamity Jane is unwise. Boots are fine – they make the properly crisp noises – but spurs are not encouraged. Community centre caretakers get ratty when too much scoot’n scratches their floors. Now there’s a clue to line-dancing’s jokey image: proper dancing doesn’t often happen in community centres. Another clue: Howard and Raj in The Big Bang Theory go line-dancing on Saturday afternoons and that IS a bit of a worry.

With half a chance line-dancers might even have given the great Sir Thomas Beecham a run for his money. He once said, after conducting a spirited performance of the Diaghilev Ballet, that he’d “made the little buggers hop!” Contrary to popular belief, a couple of hours of boot scoot’n boogie is not for sissies, as Bette Davis once said about old age. Nor is it for anyone with two left feet. The moves start from simple and go through to intricate, and must be learned and put together in the right order. Not everyone does this – there is always someone in front – or behind or to left or right – doing it wrong.

Line-dancing is not ballet, so anyone who’s got rhythm can do it. For those past ballet – or zumba – it’s an option not to be laughed at.