Editorial: For those of you who are still reading my essays on “What I did at dancing” by Carol Elsbury (aged 50), you will know that when I last wrote I was two days away from going to the Qualifiers and, since then, have qualified, gone to the Supadance Finals and Blackpool
Published Friday June 24 2011, by Carol Elsbury
Ready, Steady, Stop!
On the subject of the Qualifiers I will just reiterate that the time and patience Howard & Pete put into the pre-qualifying “nurse Carol through the dances and hope” sketch paid off and both my heroes got me through! There were many tears but this year they were of pure joy. This time I was going to the party and would be involved in the build up! I couldn’t have asked for better partners and friends and as Steve also qualified in both, there were double celebrations!
But before Blackpool arrived, there was the Supadance Final and this forms the first part of my story:
Steady: (or how to go to the Supadance Finals without knickers….)
We arrived with all the essentials (as you do if you’ve been to Pontins in Prestatyn before) i.e. beds, heaters, torches and lights… as well as all the dance paraphernalia and “the dress”. Now this deserves quotations marks because, as any female dancer reading this knows, there is a dress (normally the last one purchased, at a price that 30 years ago would have been reserved for a car or a holiday) that qualifies for the title. It was going to be worn for the ballroom four dance competition and even if it only got out there for 1 minute and 30 seconds, it was going to be the highlight of my weekend.
Saturday morning came and went and Steve and I had managed to bumble around the floor without hurting other competitors and no-one laughed (out loud) so we called that a good morning. There was a break before the first part of the four dance so we headed back to the chalet where I was going to put on “the dress”. In addition Bec had lent me her beautiful red ear-rings which she had worn at a previous Blackpool. The excitement I experienced can only be compared to that I felt as a child when my Mum bought me a “dancing” dress which was pale blue and had sequins on and a big ruffled underskirt so I could look like my Auntie (who actually danced on the old school Come Dancing) as this was, for younger readers, about 1964!
We had a quick cup of coffee and then I went to put on the dress. Now, I had tried it on several times previously under the supervision of Bec (yes ~ it was another Bec’s Fashions’ purchase) and there hadn’t been a problem). Now, however, only 30 minutes before the competition the zip failed to go up. Or down. Or anywhere other than remain stationary. Steve was called and he also failed to move it. He tugged as much as a man could standing within 2 inches of an increasingly hysterical female frantically shouting instructions and warnings about damaging the dress in quick succession. Time flew past and it was decided that I had to change back to my supadance dress and underskirt or we wouldn’t be dancing at all. (This nicely glosses over the fact that I threw “the dress” onto the bed with all the petulance of a 3 year old and muttered and sulked and pouted all the way back to the ballroom).
When we walked in Bec started to say “Why aren’t you…..” and tailed off when she saw my face and Steve behind me frantically gesturing “leave it .. leave it for god’s sake!” I walked away to put on my shoes and I am guessing Steve regaled her with the full version of what had happened. As you will all know, Bec doesn’t hold with bad behaviour in the ballroom and when I returned (still with smacked a**e face) she fixed me with an icy stare. “Well you’ll just have to dance properly and make sure you are in the finals tonight so you can wear the dress.” I knew well enough not to enter into a conversation and sat there waiting to be called. I could say I was inspired, determined to go out there and be the best I could but, unfortunately, I was still sulking and sat there thinking there was no hope of that and everything was rubbish… Look I may be 50 but sometimes I am capable of being 3 with a vengeance.
I think the first dance was tango so that my face and attitude was a positive bonus! I seem to remember we danced the foxtrot but I don’t recall (in the early rounds) that we had to dance the quick step. The call backs for the evening rounds were not for another hour and we knew we wouldn’t get through but there was coffee and biscuits and comfy clothes back at the chalet so we trudged off, laughing at my earlier tantrum.
We had settled down on the settee (well as much as you can on four iron bars and a few feathers) and were watching t.v. when Bec flew through the door shouting “You’ve made the semi-finals! Get up! You’re dancing TONIGHT!” We exchanged glances and then I looked up “But the zip won’t move!” “Then I’ll sew you into the thing!” retorted Bec. What ensued was nothing short of chaos with everyone running around Bec who sat very calmly with the dress over her lap, a bar of soap and a fixed look of determination. Within ten minutes she raised her head and declared the zip mended providing no-one unzipped it past the carefully positioned safety pin!
Suffice to say I was NOT going to be late and we duly sat, completely ready, in an adjacent chalet with other Wright Rhythm members who were casually making moves to get ready, tweaking already perfect hairstyles and even watching some t.v. Then my nerve broke. “I want to walk over now please!” I said in carefully measured tones. Steve immediately recognised the signs which preceded a melt down and jumped up and ushered me out of the chalet and over to the ballroom. I have an absolute horror of being late for dancing. It seemed so unreal. Here we were, dancing in the evening as a couple as opposed to hanging on to the shirt tails of the “team”. I was caught between total elation and doing a very good impersonation of a rabbit in headlights! Then someone casually informed us that if we made the final, we would be required to dance on our own in the spotlight. It was all I could do to remain upright! Steve gave me a kind of manic grin (the one where your lips curl up over your teeth) and we both knew that, deep down, it was the first supadance final all over again. You might remember the one where we were trapped in a corner and looked at the exit to the restaurant and both thought we could make a quick getaway?!
As it happened the first dance went well and then the quickstep was announced. Now, we both have a few problems with the quickstep i.e. our roller coasters conform to no known timing and whilst we can start them together, stopping them together was more of an auction! I remember thinking how nervous Paula must be as she had seen Steve move into a spin turn whilst I hurtled straight at him thinking we were doing another roller coaster. It wasn’t a pretty sight and one that Paula had witnessed many, many times! Luck was with us and we managed to stop at the same point and didn’t hold up nor damage any of our colleagues as they performed more technical routines. Amazingly we left the floor knowing that whatever the outcome was, we had danced to the best of our ability. And that was a first. We didn’t make the final (and boy we were relieved!) and sat back to watch Howard & Gillian take the floor, complete with spotlight, with a confidence and skill we knew we didn’t possess but we still felt as if we had turned a corner.
Sunday, as you know, is Latin day for the individual competitors and I had a latin dress in blue and Steve had a matching shirt. These items weren’t bought together, in fact Steve’s shirt had been purchased (due to the colour) several years previously and we had waited for two things to occur. One was that we reached a level where we felt confident enough to wear the matching set as a couple and secondly (and more importantly) one where our weight levels had dropped sufficiently to stop us looking as if we had been squashed into them as a bet...
We danced in the team events in the morning and then there was quite a long break before the individual events. Or so Steve had informed me as I won’t leave the vicinity without checking the timings with him as I am paranoid about being late. I was idly looking at the dresses for sale when I noticed a latin dress which had everything I initially look for i.e. a top half which could in fact contain me and a bottom half which is flared and could therefore disguise me! I took the dress into the ladies and met Paula who gave me the go ahead to try it on.
My blue dress has no poppers in the body so it meant stripping off leaving me standing in my tights alone. (Carefully tanned naturally bare legs is NOT an option as I need all the support I can get!) I then realised the potential new dress had no built in knickers so I was dragging it up my body when I heard someone outside shout, “Is there a Carol in here?” “Umm, yes” I replied. “You’re supposed to be on the floor dancing NOW!” There are no words to tell you how I felt, half naked and standing in a cubicle when I was supposed to be in my matching dress on the floor. I looked down and had seconds to make a decision. I pulled up the dress, found it contained my top half and called that done. I didn’t even stop to see what it looked like and ran out into the corridor to be met by Pete. He smiled serenely and said “Now, calm down because we are going to slowly walk out and get your shoes on and then go on to the floor. There is no need to panic.” This was said in a sing song voice whilst he fixed me with his steady gaze. I held this gaze whilst stumbling along by his side until I was met with Bec ~ not quite such a smile on her face but a calm exterior nevertheless! I frantically put on one shoe whilst she put on the other and then Pete took me to the edge of the floor. Left to my own devices I then broke into a run, mouthing “SORRY” at everyone in sight and skidded to my position in front of Steve. I was later informed that I should have gracefully walked onto the floor and not cantered on like a late comer in the 3.30 at Kempton Park. I was also later informed that Pete had been designated to collect me as Steve had said “I’m not going near her ~ she’ll go mental!”
Steve and I begin the Rumba with my back to him and our faces quite close. “Take it slowly,” I whispered, “I don’t have any knickers on….” Apparently his legs nearly went as he knew the next dance was a jive! We went through the most controlled Rumba we have ever danced and then, hearts in mouths, heard that the Jive was being used for the call backs and we could leave the floor. Paula met me with a wry grin. “Well,” she said “You coped better with that than I thought you would!” “Yes,” I replied, “considering I had no knickers on, quite well I thought!” Her face was a picture and we dissolved into laughter.
Just after that Mandy walked up to me and said “You obviously liked the dress then!” and it finally dawned on me that I had danced in someone else’s dress without even asking! I explained what hadhappened, confirmed that I would be buying the dress and again we fell about laughing as she went back to explain to the lovely lady who owned the dress...
Needless to say I then hurtled back to the chalet and duly appeared (on time) for the jive with a pair of passion killers in position. And we actually made the final! And, true to the spirit of Supadance, were congratulated on our first final by other members of different clubs also in the over 50’s. How totally amazing is that?
Our friends the Senior TeamThere is always, in life and dancing, a price to pay and although we felt we had “come of age” during that weekend, I earned a new nickname ….”Commando Carol!”
We had made a semi and a final, coped with some very trying situations and felt as if we wanted to do it all again. Even in Prestatyn in November!