Friday, 15 February 2008

First Steps...

Well I survived my first dance lesson.

What am I talking about survived?

I had an absolute blast. The best best thing about being a published author is I finally feel I can justify taking part of a morning off to go and learn how to dance in the interests of research. It's my job, you see. But how lucky to be able to have so much fun while you're doing it.

The morning didn't start too auspiciously as I wasn't quite sure where I was going and when I arrived, realised that the dance studio was on a main road with no parking for more then twenty minutes and a police car across the road. I drove round fruitlessly for some little while before parking on a yellow behind another car and hoping that the policeman wouldn't notice me.

I did feel quite nervous as I walked through the doors of the studio. Was I too old for all this? Too awkward? And when I saw the calibre of the sexy young couple strutting their stuff on the dance floor, too amateur by half?

However, I needn't have worried, as my dance teacher, whom I can now reveal to be Izobela Hannah who featured on SCD in 2005, was not only delightful, but instantly put me at ease.

On discovering that I wanted to get the feel for several dances (I have worked out rumba standing on my own in front of a computer screen, and tried to waltz with a nine year old following a dvd, but it isn't quite the same) she kindly showed me the basic steps of rumba, tango and social foxtrot.

In rumba apparently the thing to do is to keep the top half of your body straight and tall, but the bottom half should be lithe and lissome, so you can perfect your snake hip type movement. I had got the idea about snake hips from my computer forays, but actually executing it in the fluid way Izobela does is a whole different ballgame. Like most things in life, if you relax it's easier. To start with nerves were making me stiff as a post and I was so worried about not getting the basic steps, back, side close, forward side close, trying to keep your feet in between your partner's WITHOUT tripping up, takes some doing I can tell you. As I am the sort of person who has never been able to master that trick where you rub your head and your tummy simultaneously in opposite directions, you will understand that I really get muddled with my left and rights.

However, Izobela did manage to get me moving more fluidly, and thanks to her explanation of how to listen to your partner's body movements, I have a much better sense of how sensuous this dance could be, which is perfect for one particular scene when one of my couples get drawn closer together (and thanks to watching Ashes to Ashes last night, I've also given them the perfect tune to dance to: Body Talk).

After mastering a simple routine, Izobela then took me on to the tango. Here I felt like a complete prat I have to say. I'm not tall, but Izobela is much smaller then me, and with the tango you don't look at your partner, so I found myself staring in the mirror and wishing I could move as easily as she does. It was however very funny learning how to stretch myself right back with my head flung right back, before coming forward again and doing this funny rocking thing (which if I did it with my husband I wouldn't be able to cope without falling into fits of giggles), before doing that wonderful side stepping bit which the tango is famous for, and then ending it in a spin. I have a tango scene at the end of the book, and I can really see how that works much better now.

I can also see how to get my other couple (who are hopeless at dancing) into some wonderfully entangled situations, where they can trip each other up, or just keep leading with the wrong foot.

Finally Izobela took me onto the social foxtrot. This apparently is a good one to use when you're in a crowded room. When proper competitive dancers do it, they should, so Izobela told me simply glide around the room (and she demonstrated this brilliantly with her next pupil), but it's common for beginners to fumble and for the men not to lead properly. Again. Great material for the couple who can't dance, and watching it done properly made me itch to get up there and really have a go.

If I had world enough and time... And all that.

Unfortunately time is something I'm rather short of. Izobela does run a beginner's class, but on Monday evenings when I am out swimming (and as I appear to have finally committed myself to taking part in a triathlon this year I can't let the swimming go), so I'm planning a few lessons with her spread out over the next few months and hope with that and the help of my dvds, I might actually get to grips with this.

Because I haven't had such fun in a while.

And however hopeless I am. I do love to dance...

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