Not that I’ve seen any of it, but it’s a laugh that John Sergeant, a witty political TV commentator, has bailed out of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, the show in which celebrities are teamed with professionals and asked to battle it out on the ballroom floor. The judges gave him low scores for his clodhoppery, and the public, much to the judges’ annoyance, kept voting him back in. Ah, the power of the paid-up phone-in. It is quite clear that JS was heading for a complete victory, just so that people could twit the panel. It is nice to know that we don’t take things seriously.
It was impressed on me by my mother that I would have to learn the foxtrot and the Gay Gordons if I was going to attract the opposite sex (she, like me, was living in the past). The schools I went to agreed, and there would be regular sessions of country dancing, etc. etc., which I cannot abide. There is no reason why I should like it, but it’s one of those things that you are supposed to enjoy, or you are a pariah. I have opted out of enough ceilidhs now for people to know where I stand: at the bar.
But that’s not to say that I don’t like dancing. In fact, I love it. It’s dancing with other people that I am not keen on, by which I don’t mean dancing on my own (though this has been known). I am happy to dance in the rough proximity of others. I was very lucky with what happened to dancing. Just before I came of the age when you had to go to dances (or even ‘balls’, if they were in aid of charity), the vogue for accurate dancing, with the Twist, Madison, Bossa Nova etc. etc. taking over from the foxtrot and the quickstep, ended – when a new dance was featured on the TV. It had a name. It was called The Shake. There were and are absolutely no rules to The Shake (the name has long since vanished). All that was required was that you threw your body about the place with spirit and abandon, preferably to the beat of whatever music was playing. Perfect. I could do that. I did do that. I carried on doing it from the age of fourteen to about forty, and have been known to do it more recently, although not in the presence of teenagers (nothing upsets them more, except possibly being seen with you in a public place like a shopping mall).
I dance from the feet (not like Flatley, who I flatly – hah! – refused to see when he was in Dublin at the same time as me – it may have been another Riverdance, thinking about it, post-Flatley, but I still hate it). I dance very fast, and I am prepared to dance for as long as the impulse takes me. What I need to set me off is not some naff disco track, but, in an ideal world, ‘Soul Sacrifice’ by Santana, the live version, please, the very very long live version with the fourteen-minute drum solo by Mike Shrieve. I can then hurl myself about, love every minute, and create what Bertie Wooster somewhere calls ‘ a positive danger to traffic’.
But Highland Flings? Holding hands with other people? Not for me. From the quadrille to the Locomotion, they are dances I don’t mind watching. I suppose it is true that I would like to jive, but it’s too late – don’t start on me about evening classes – to start chucking women over my shoulder and between my legs, at my age. Just crank up the volume, stick on a drum solo, and let me go-go.
Keep at a safe distance. Clear the floor. You have been warned.