Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dancing - with midges*

I'm back. I've been wandering in London and rural France, but right now I need to talk about ... dancing. Perhaps it's the tender toes and the fact that I slept till 9am for the first time in years that press me to this, but I shall return to considering life in France and even the matter of dull Synod procedures, I promise.

But dancing. I don't do much of it these days, not since I jiggered knees and toe joints in an ill-advised adventure with tap-dancing about ten years ago. Last night, however, I was at a fund-raising ceilidh-dance (the things I do for the church!) in the Uig Hall - and had a ball. First, a little scene-setting. The Uig Hall is a remarkably well-equipped little hall beside the River Echaig, surrounded by trees, below the hills that flank Loch Eck. It is a charming setting, and it is plagued by midges on warm summer evenings. Yesterday, under a wonderful yellow moon, there were millions of them. And in the heat of the evening, several windows were opened ...

The band was just right. The Old Bores, including my old ami JK, use minimal amplification for their mandolins and guitars, and one can still talk while they play. Much of the time, however, I was dancing, as memories of how to do Barn Dances and St Bernard's Waltzes crept back and I shoved a French friend through the intricacies of the Dashing White Sergeant. And when it was all over, and I found myself drying glasses (on paper towels!) in the kitchen, one of the country dance people said to me "You've danced before".

I don't think of myself as a dancer, yet I was sent to Eurythmics at the age of three and a dancing class that involved the rudiments of ballet at the age of five - quite apart from the ballroom dancing classes at Roger McEwan's in my teens where dancing and getting off with boys vied for one's attention but where I did learn a nifty quickstep. We also had to learn country dances at school, in preparation for Christmas dances and the mass performances in the playground at the school fete - oh, the horrors of dancing on concrete. I guess it was just part of growing up.

But it was later on in life that I realised that not everyone does this. Not everyone who takes to the dance floor automatically moves in time with the music, feels the first beat of the bar, finds their weight rising onto toes as they move, like a rider rising to the trot (no - I don't ride). And it is this, I think, that makes the difference, more than remembered moves or intricate steps. My father could dance an elegant foxtrot without really moving at all in his later years, and bore no resemblance at all to people who can move round the floor without apparently hearing the music.

Go and watch. Look at a film where there is dancing as a backdrop to some action. See if you notice anyone moving in time, and observe the strange rhythmless gait of the others. I've always noticed this, right from the first time a seven-year-old boy put his sweaty paw on my pink taffeta. So I guess she was right, that lady. I have danced before.

Sorry, Andrew - it's too good not to use!


  1. Some of us were told the aim of an (Orcadian) Strip the Willow was to send one's partner flying into a wall at greatest possible speed. Haven't succeeded... just yet ;)

  2. Ah, an evening well spent, then! It sounds like a lovely time, indeed. Not so sure about the midges...since mosquitoes THRIVE upon my blood, I imagine those no-see-ums would, as well.

    I used to participate in Jewish dance. Lively and if one cannot keep to the beat, oh my! Would be disastrous, for sure! (consider a human trainwreck!)

    Yours sounds like not only an enjoyable, but productive night as well!!!

  3. There was an Orcadian S-t-W, but I was dying at the time! And yes, Katya, it was a great evening.

  4. Funnily enough we were braving the midgies in Invereck a day or so ago, having been at our youngest grandchildren's dancing concert. They start them early in Kilmarnock. Hope the aches and pains are not too bad.

  5. With midges around (and what I can remember about the reaction I had 15 years ago, I think I could manage to dance!!!!

  6. With midges around and remembering how I reacted to them 15 years ago, I think I could manage to dance!!!!!!!

  7. What fun if you'd been there! Welcome to the comments box!

  8. I enjoy these dances but tend to gallumph around them like an ungainly giraffe. I wish I'd been there!

  9. Usually when I decide that I too can dance and sing some insensitive and overbearing creature suggests that they could call a taxi for me.