Murder On The Dancefloor: Cups of Tea in Church Halls

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We're fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance – Japanese proverb

Cups of Tea in Church Halls

This week I have been doing a little tour of Scottish dance classes other than my local group. First though, a confession. I've been to hardly any of the Lisburn classes since they started back in September. But that's because Tuesday nights were a rehearsal night for Guys and Dolls (see the next instalment of Murder), which was in Bangor, 25 miles away. My daughter was heavily involved in it, and it often made more sense to hang around Bangor for a couple of hours than to try to do two return journeys.

One of the things I really like about the Scottish dance society is that they hold frequent dances, balls, ceilis and parties. The first one in the calendar is always the St Andrews Ball, and this year it is being hosted by the Helen's Bay group to celebrate their 50 year anniversary. The tickets were beautifully produced, with a little swatch of tartan ribbon on each one, and accompanied by a full crib sheet giving details of all the scheduled dances. Unfortunately, by the time I enquired about a ticket they were completely sold out, and I had resigned myself to not going.

The weeks went by all too quickly, and soon it was performance week for Guys and Dolls. This meant I had to get my daughter to and from Bangor every single evening. Naturally I would be attending some of the performances, but not all of them. Now, one of the other nice things about the Scottish dancing organisation is that if you are a member of one class, you can attend any other class in the district for a small fee. There was a class in Bangor itself on the Monday night, and one in Helen's Bay, a rather posh little village about five miles this side of Bangor, on Thursdays. So I planned to spend my evenings usefully by attending these two classes.

There were only 10 people in the Bangor class, all elderly ladies, and we rattled around the draughty church hall while the rain battered the windows from outside. Unsurprisingly, they were concentrating on the dances for the ball, some of which are quite complicated, and it's good to give the brain a bit of a workout as well as the feet. And, joy of joys, one of the ladies there had spare tickets for the ball! They were very friendly over the mid-class cup of tea and a biscuit (a feature common to ALL classes) and I was glad I'd overcome my shyness and come along. Promising to be back next Monday to acquire the rare tickets, I waved my cheerios.

The Helen's Bay class had a different atmosphere to it. For starters, there were half a dozen men, most of them wearing kilts, and the bloke organising the group is an old pal of mine, having taught me line dancing eons ago. There was a proper register, and plenty of information about forthcoming dance events pinned to the walls. As this class is hosting the ball, they are obviously extra keen to be step perfect on the dances, and around 25 of us twirled and reeled our way enthusiastically through six of the program dances before breaking for tea. Even more wonderfully, the keeper of the holy tickets was there in person, and I was able to get my hands on a pair. I remarked that I felt like Cinderella – I shall go to the ball!

All the classes have things in common: they all do a proper warm-up, although the extent of stretching exercises varies. And they all have a cup of tea half way through. But I was rather surprised by the differing atmospheres. Some of that comes from the teacher's style, whether that be rather stern and strict, or more gentle and relaxed. And a lot of it naturally stems from the personalities in the dance group. Some are noisy and have a habit of telling you the steps at the same time as the teacher is trying to call them. Some are gossipy and spend time chatting to their friends. And it was obvious there were some personality clashes, no doubt dating back to some ancient history of which I was unaware! But they were all very friendly and I was given a warm welcome at all of them.

So now it's only two weeks until the ball. I need to decide what I'm wearing, and also what classes I'm going to attend over the next fortnight to make sure I'm comfortable with at least some of the dances. At least there's plenty of choice!

Murder on the Dance Floor Archive


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