Tuesday, 13 March 2007

How to watch dancing: a guide for men

Tracy who writes Gwelva Kernewek recently reminded me of my first experience of dancing classes. I have sons; we have taken them to karate, acting, rock music and drumming at various times. We have never taken them to dancing classes - who is Angelina Ballerina? My boys think that grace and beauty is a V8 Twin-Turbo engine.

I have two nieces; they dance; and it was to their show at a local civic centre that we were invited. Sat plumb in the centre on the second row we had a perfect view of the stage and the proceedings. The event progressed in order of age, starting with the youngest, my youngest niece was four years at the time and was a 'Great Ball of Fire' in a choreographed routine to the tune of Jerry Lee Lewis's rock and roll classic. The costumes were spherical and fiery; the dancing tots were fabulously entertaining as the teachers tried to herd them like sheep in the correct direction
"To the left now girls; no, the other left Britney..."
The next age group included my older niece who was, I think, ten years at the time. This was a floaty balletic affair and, of course, my niece was the best and most floaty ballerina. It was during this performance that I noticed how parents and grandparents clapped along to the rhythm - of everything, no matter whether the tempo demanded it or not. The comments that accompanied the clapping demonstrated that it isn't just sport parents who are competitive:
"I don't think much of that fat lass, she keeps getting in the way of our Jade; you can 'ave a word with that teacher after, Terry."

"That Ibiza's mother hasn't made much of an effort with her costume 'as she. Well, it's not that she hasn't the time; doesn't work you know - although from what I've heard she finds plenty to do."
During the interval I checked the programme for the second half selection and started to feel uneasy. It seemed that the second half was to be the Senior Section, though what senior meant wasn't explicit. It is a simple matter to watch tots tottering around unselfconsciously - it is also a simple matter to know how to respond: laughing and oooing and ahhing. My fears were well founded.

The Senior Section consisted of girls aged fourteen plus (and, as you will see, I do mean plus). I know how to be the parent of boys and I know all about the pubescent happenings of the male species, having had the surprising and, sometimes, shocking experiences myself. What I do not know about however, is how to react when girls become women. Dancing requires Lycra; Lycra clings to every curve leaving no doubt about pubescent development. Teenage girls are greatly influenced by the erotic posturings to be seen in pop videos; whether they know what the posturings represent is another thing; but the moves are copied assiduously. The phrase 'I didn't know where to look' about sums up my
response; I stared ahead like a rabbit caught in the headlights trying to adopt the sort of expression that a man who knows about dancing might have; thus I added comments along with the other parents "Well done." I said applauding, not knowing whether or not it was done well at all.

The final part of the show was the second half of the Senior Section: senior as in senior citizen, almost. These were
grown-up ladies-who-dance and want to show everyone their dancing; not just satisfied with dancing for fun, or keeping fit, these mature ladies wanted to show off their talent at tap. It was awful; a tap dancing Lycra ladies' exercise class taking place feet from my face, this time I did know where to look, the spectacle was too much to miss it. I'm not sure what other people were thinking but in true Emporer's New Clothes style, an older man, presumably someone's grandfather, summed it up with his stage whisper,

"By gum, yon big lasses aren't shy are they."

I thought it might be fun to include this photograph, taken in our lounge, of me doing my rehabilitative physiotherapy exercises.


Tracey said...

Great blog! :)

Yes there were times that I felt a little uncomfortable watching. Especially the adults! You don`t know where to look sometimes?!

I wonder if my girls will go on with their dancing. They are loving it at the moment.

Lucy has a good balance in life I think! One minute she can be creating beautiful ballet moves on the dance floor and the next minute she is hurtling around a race track doing 150+ mph on Gran Turismo 4-PS2 game (great fun though!).

Jonathan said...

Excellent post. I love the quote at the end about "yon big lasses" :)