Courtesy of My Generation.
You don’t have to be young, thin, beautiful or even talented to trip the light fantastic in Auckland’s dance halls. PETA STAVELLI puts on her dancing shoes.
Let me tell you about Roger. He was not much of a glamour boy. For a start, he had one leg shorter than the other and carried a certain corpulence… but none of that mattered.
You see, Roger could dance. He could hurl me over his back and pull me through his legs. He could throw me in the air and bounce me on his hip as if I were a baby. We would come off the dance floor only if the music stopped and by then we’d be breathless, drenched and absolutely exhilarated. Nothing compared to a good old Rogering on the dance floor.
Cut to the early eighties and it was all Disco, Disco, Man. We wore shiny dresses with massive shoulder pads and – influenced by the movies Fame and Grease – we’d finish work at midnight and dance until dawn in a room full of flashing lights. My erstwhile dance partner was a Black American pianist touring with someone who had once been famous. We were so busy dancing the night away it didn’t occur to me that he also expected me to sleep with him. On the last night of the tour he once more invited me to his penthouse. Once more I declined. “But this may be the last chance you get to sleep with someone as famous as me,” he whined as I entered the lift and pressed the down button.
He may have been right. Now that I’m older and wider, even chances to dance occur less often and usually involve copious amounts of alcohol. Take last Saturday night, for instance. After sharing a few beverages while watching an Elton John DVD with my sensible partner, he decided to retire early. And so it was that I found myself alone and boogying at midnight. While I didn’t position myself thus (and I was careful never to catch my reflection side on) I couldn’t help but notice that the old girl has still got it. Of course it took longer for my flesh to realise I had actually stopped dancing; but that was a minor irritation compared to the exhilaration I felt afterwards. Something primal had been re-awakened in my soul. I wanted more. But how was I to get it? And so it was that I went online and found I was not alone.
Punching in places to dance Auckland turned up the following link: www.wheretodance.co.nz I had struck pay dirt. Scrolling through the list of dance studios and dance steps from which I could choose (try salsa, swing, Latino, ceroc and jitterbug, to name but a few) my heart soared. I quickly flicked to Dance Partners Wanted. My heart sank. The advertisers were all women and some of them sounded a lot like me. Take S.L, for example: ‘Mid 50's lady, approx 5'4", attractive, slim, would love to dance weekends and week nights where possible.’
OK. Some I’m 5’.1”, tubby and quite a bit past my prime. But I am in my mid 50s. Clearly I was not the only middle-aged woman having a dance renaissance. Scrolling down the list I came to Female Partner Wanted. My heart soared. Check this out. I am virtually in-numerate but even I could see that when it comes to dance there is no such thing as a man drought. Female and male advertisers were exactly equal; numbering 26 of each.
I quietly fancied GA:
‘I'm 56 years old, married to a non-dancer, a shift-worker, and looking for a dance partner interested in casual dancing. I have line-danced for 14 yrs, Rock N Rolled for 8 years, and do social ballroom waltz, foxtrot etc. If you can lead, I can follow.’
Shame about the line-dancing. But never mind. The point is; there is a dance revolution going on out there; probably in a St John Ambulance Hall quite near you.
Blame it on Dancing With the Stars, the popular television show which restored Suzanne Paul’s credibility and even managed to make Rodney Hide look attractive. It seems the ability to dance can turn any old frog into a prince among men.
As big as it has already become, Megan Smith who runs the popular Swing Station dance classes reckons we are still in the early stages of the dance revolution. She broke off from other dance disciplines three years ago to focus on Swing, starting with just one class in Mt Eden. She now runs weekly classes in four different venues. “From the get-go, swing is all about having fun,” she says. “Other dance moves are all about posture; swing – with its moves like Kick the Dog and Shorty George – is about relaxing and having fun.”
It’s also about dressing up. Dance exponents frequently don the 40s Zoot suits and dresses with socks associated with the era when swing was born. Just as swing emerged from the Charleston, it later morphed into Rock ‘n’ roll with some moves being retained.
“It’s a nearly perfect exercise regime,” Megan says. “I can go to sleep on a treadmill, but this is so much fun three hours whiz by and you hardly know it.” Swing has become so big there are now the numbers for social nights which are held every second Thursday night at Bond Street bar, Kingsland. “We pack the place out,” Megan says proudly. She admits giving 100 percent to get the dance going and this year she’s at last got the numbers to launch monthly swing nights at The Juice Bar, Parnell, with 15-piece band Tuxedo Swing.
Another woman giving her all to dance is Kay Lindley who runs the aforementioned wheretodance website. Despite the fact that she holds down a full-time job as HealthWEST’s Health Promotion Manager, her evenings and weekends are all about dance. “I’m a social secretary,” she laughs. When Dancing with the Stars is screening she’s busy answering queries about finding classes for whatever dance was featured that week. Other times it’s ‘Where do I find dance venues or good bands?’ She’s even been asked where to find good dance knickers. “On a long weekend I can field up to 60 phone calls,” she says. She’s got some bad news for me: female dancers still outnumber male. Apparently her website advertisers are democratically limited to 26 of each. But, she is quick to point out the numbers of men wanting to dance is rapidly growing and include a lot of younger men. “They’ve caught on to the fact that with many dance moves they get to actually hold their lady. And men who can dance are in huge demand.”
Ain’t that the truth? More than 30 years have gone by and I still think fondly of Roger. I’m heading home soon; I think I’ll look him up and see if he can fit me onto his dance card.
The Swing Station
Phone: 027 223 5673