The time has come, avid and benevolent reader, for me to open up the good old closet and let you have a bit of a goggle at the nasty skeleton residing therein. By which I mean I have decided to give you some insight into my troubled relationship with the art or sullen craft called dance.
I have shrunk from it, tried to disguise or avoid it but now circumstances demand that I lay the truth bare and may Satan himself take the consequences. So here I go.
Most of my primary schooling was done at a co-educational state school and the teachers there were left to impose dancing on us at pretty much their own discretion. Some were keen and we would get quite a lot. Others were not as keen and the matter did not arise often if at all.
Mrs MacMartin in year 4 was pretty keen and went so far as to arrange a “discotheque” for our class. She somehow secured a record player with a turntable that actually worked and we danced the night away to the 2 singles that had been bought for the occasion being “The Ball Bearing Bird” and “In the Summertime” (the Mixtures’ version, not the Mungo Jerry one).
Actually we may have had “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” as well though I am not sure. For the slow dancing.
In those simpler days we just wanted something we could dance to and if that meant some dreadful novelty song then so be it. It could have been worse. In other years it may have been “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back”, “Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West” or “Shuddup You Face”.
The reality is that after years of stuff like “Here We Go, ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”, we could be forced to dance to pretty much anything. And forced we were.
As I recall the Year 3/4 Discotheque was good fun though I suspect that may have been despite the dancing rather than because of it.
In year 6 Mr Quigley and Miss Roberts chose to instruct their combined classes in square dancing and the horrors that were thus inflicted on us remain fresh. Indeed, stop me if you have heard this one before but I can still remember the call that we learned:
“All join hands and – circle the ring
Stop where you are and give your girl a couple of swings
Now swing your corner maid,
She’s a standing right there behind you
Now back and swing your own
Like a chicken in a bread pan picking up dough.
Alley man left there with your left hand
Go sashay ‘round your own
Then back and promenade
From the inside of the ring
Singing “Oh Johnny Oh Johnny Oh!”
I’m not sure who was supposed to be enjoying this experience but none of we year 6’s were. Well, possibly Nigel Lamton was, but he marched to the beat of a slightly different drum.
And I mean “marched” in the very broadest sense.
I moved to an all boys school in year 7 and so the issue of dance fell quiet for a while but in year 10, after we got a firm and slightly mysterious talking to from the headmaster, a busload of girls from a nearby girls’ school arrived and the famous Mr Garry Case appeared to teach us what we needed to know.
Garry Case was a local legend and seems to have conducted the majority of high school dancing classes in my hometown. He and his partner the Lovely Gabriella (the name didn’t change although the woman herself was never the same person twice) would run through the Military Two Step, the Foxtrot and, oh I don’t know, probably the Rhumba or something.
The idea behind these lessons was presumably to get us ready for the various school dances that started in year 11.
Now these school dances were pretty odd but not so odd that anyone ever did the Military Two Step or the Foxtrot. They were a lot closer to our year 4 efforts at trying to find a dance beat in “The Ball Bearing Bird”.
For me, the most interesting thing about Garry Case’s dancing classes was that I had an important personal connection with Mr Case. You see he lived next door to my Grandma.
He cut an arresting figure in the otherwise unremarkable environs of Joslin. He was always immaculately coiffed and often wore a form fitting bodyshirt undone almost to the waistband of his matador style trousers.
He seemed awfully exotic in dance classes too but my awe was tempered by having seen him at home under the bonnet of his Valiant station wagon, swearing loudly as he administered what seemed to be random blows to the engine with whatever was to hand.
That’s how people worked on cars in those days.
Anyway, the fence between Grandma’s house and the Case residence was low and this encouraged friendly interchange. For me the best part was when his shed door was open. You could see right in and, while he seemed to have the stuff that ordinary people had in the shed like lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, jars of nails and rusty tools, he also had all sorts of electrical equipment and, to my amazement, hanging from the roof trusses was a range of mirrorballs.
I think there was a big one, a small one and two middle sized ones.
I should also mention that the various Gabriellas often seemed to be staying at Garry’s house too which is probably why he stored the mirror balls in the shed. He couldn’t have them in the spare room ‘cos Gabriella was in there. I imagine.
Perhaps this special “behind the scenes” perspective should have made me more enthusiastic about Gary’s dance classes, but it didn’t. Indeed I was one of the least enthusiastic participants of all.
My mother encouraged me saying that a man who can dance has a big advantage with girls. Frankly I doubt that the Progressive Jive has ever precipitated a significant romantic attachment but even at that young age I knew that mum was not likely to be a reliable source of information about picking up chicks.
So I just did the minimum in class and avoided Garry Case when visiting Grandma in much the same way that I avoided dance hungry girls on the odd occasion that I was forced to a school “social” (as they were laughably called).
Things improved a bit as I grew older and dance environments provided the strong drink necessary to make the whole fiasco bearable but I rarely managed any real enthusiasm.
So, that’s why you won’t find pumps in my shoe collection or a mat with footprints and dotted lines hidden under the bed.
You are no doubt asking yourself why is it so important that I make this troubling story public?
Well, to my surprise I recently came across some advertising material for Garry Case’s dance school.
The postal address is right there in Joslin.
I had assumed that he had long since hung up the soft shoes and shirts with floppy sleeves. But no.
What really took my attention about the advertising was that he claimed to have “over 20 years’ experience”. While that statement is strictly accurate, it borders on the misleading.
The events that I describe above took place so long ago that I suspect Garry Case must have more like 40 or even 50 years’ experience.
Could it be that he is trying to seem younger than he really is?