Editorial: Are you a ballroom virgin wondering what it's like to take those first few steps? Many people have the desire to learn to dance but their fear of the unknown puts them off making that first step onto the floor. A few months ago Carol and husband Steve were in just such a position, however, they took the plunge and haven't looked back since. Now Carol has written about their experience to make it a little less unknown for others...
Published Tuesday December 12 2006, by Carol Elsbury
The First Step
I can guarantee that the hardest step you will ever take at Wright Rhythm is the first step through the door. Believe me, I know. I had always harboured notions of being able to dance “properly”, of being able to do more than the “walk around slowly” dance when I went out. A love of dancing ran through my family but the talent for it had obviously missed me!
When I married last year (aged 44 and three quarters - so not for the first time then - but definitely the last) I discovered that my husband also wanted to learn to dance. We put it on our list of things to do and one night spent some time on the internet looking for a local club. As luck would have it he found Wright Rhythm. “Right!” he said, “Let’s phone and book a lesson.” Hadn’t he considered it might be full of teenagers waiting to fall about laughing at two middle-aged beginners? Or full of professional dancers? Or what if people were half way through their courses and we would be the most inexperienced/stupid? And what, exactly, do you wear to learn to dance? Visions of ball-gowns entered my head to be quickly replaced with skimpy latin dresses – neither of which I possessed and, to my knowledge, no-one produced enough sequins to cover my ample proportions! “Look,” he said patiently, “we can go once and if it is awful we don’t have to go back… you do want to learn don’t you?” So he made the phone call and before I knew it we had a dance lesson booked in two days time.
I can remember being extremely nervous as we took that first step through the door. We didn’t, however, get more than two feet before we were met with smiling faces. And yes, there were sixteen year old dancers, professional dancers and people advancing through their courses (although no ball-gowns or latin dresses) but they were all smiling. One of the teachers greeted us warmly and found out our names and abilities (two names, no ability). Within minutes we were included in the class and shown the very basics of the waltz. The teacher watched us and seamlessly divided her time between the more advanced (i.e. everyone else) and us. So there we were, first lesson, shuffling slowly around and trying to keep to the rhythm. We were passed by the more advanced students but as they rotated with a grace that seemed forever out of my reach, they smiled encouragingly and left our path clear as we slowly edged our way up the room.
Half way through the lesson there is a very thoughtful break during which you can catch your breath and take on fluids, alcoholic or otherwise. We kept slightly to one side of the crowd for about 30 seconds before we were approached by friendly faces introducing themselves and discussing their own progress, favourite dances and generally involving us in the class. The teacher returned to reassure us that, at any point, we just had to let her know we had a problem and she would sort it out. This, later, we came to realise was never necessary. All three teachers appear to have some inbuilt ability to take a class of whatever size and spot the couple in difficulties minutes before it even occurs to the couple. They then gently approach with a smile and say “Everything ok?” leaving you able to ask whatever you need to without feeling a fool.
We returned to the second half of the lesson and to a new (for us anyway) dance. Again, a simplified version was explained to us, enabling us to join in and make some progress around the floor. Now there is something very comforting about dancing with your own partner. It’s less embarrassing to tread on your husband/wife’s feet and they are used to your own endearing habit of hissing “Ouch! You idiot!” when you confuse a “back on the left foot” with a “back on the right foot”. We soon found out, however, that part of the teaching practice at Wright Rhythm is to separate “couples” occasionally so that you can learn from other people. I immediately thought this was a lousy idea – how could I possibly subject anyone else to my total lack of rhythm and knowledge? “You can dance with Rob,” said the teacher, “he will take care of you.” My reaction was more who would take him to hospital when I had broken both his feet?! I should, however, have had more faith. Rob was far more advanced but showed the patience of a saint when confronted with my stilted attempts and praised me when I managed three or four correct steps and, if he winced, I never saw it! Eventually I managed to complete one side of the dance floor without inflicting any lasting damage and couldn’t have been happier if I had won Come Dancing!
So, I suppose, that’s really all I want to say to you. Bury your fears and inhibitions, take the plunge and Come Dancing at Wright Rhythm – six months later we can make an attempt at most dances, have discovered a whole new set of friends and collapse in laughter twice weekly. It’s got to be worth taking that first step – hasn’t it?