This year’s May/fest puts the spotlight on dance, with Glasgost top ballroom dancer Donnie Burns coming home for z sequined extravaganza. Minus the frills, David Harris goes on a tango trail and discovers an enduring underworld of ballroom fanatics.
:\Cl‘0.s.s' the nation in deserted halls and temporarily converted front rooms. far from the public's intrusive gaze. men arid women «- with or without their partners ~ are experimenting with new moves and new combinations of old favourites. one day to be imitated by embracing couples everywhere.
The innovations of these dedicated solitaries can be seen replayed in ccnttrplicate around Glasgow almost every day of the week. They are the sequence dance inventors. whose shuffles and sashays attract a huge following among the over-50s. flocking to afternoon tea dances at (iovan Town Hall. Partick Burgh Hall and other dens of antiqtrity in hidden corners of the city.
For the wilder oldster who prefers dancing in the dark. liriday evenings at The Plaza Ballroom see Jim ‘Ginger‘
The scene resembles nothing . so much as group
! physiotherapy, which in a
. sense, it is.
Armstrong and (ieorgie ()‘Neill leading
the faithful in streh marvels of
reprocessed procession as the (’oca
Rolla live and the Stacey .-\nn Waltz.
Although the dance runs until after
I lllpm. the bar remains resolutely
I closed. as I soon discover to thy chagrin. let‘s give a big thank yotr to the tea ladies.‘ announces Ginger. in a voice only marginally louder than his electric bltre blazer. before he and
t (ieorgie take the floor to warm
j applause. .-\t the controls (of . portable
I Cl) player). septuagenarian James
; Murphy punches a button. Nothing
l happens. He tries again and after a few
' false starts the carefully selected
sounds of Dennis llayvvard's Swinging Sequence waft vv'anly across the hall. Two rounds of the Radiant Rumba front the experts. and the assembled couples follow their lead -— to the letter. with everyone performing precisely the same steps. The resulting scene resembles nothing so much as group physiotherapy. Which. iii a sense. it is. ()ur hosts are keen to point ottt that the
98 The t.is. :t ~\‘[‘l'-~1i\l'l}' l‘NS
soft shoe guards against hardened arteries. ‘You see that man over there)" asks (icot‘gte in response to an entirely unrelated question. ‘liighty sevenl‘ l nod understandingly. agreeing with whatever it is I‘m agreeing w itlt. About ~18 new dances are added to the repertoire eaclt year this .'\llf..'llsl in .\lusselbtrrgh. hopeful hooters will compete for the honour of having their creations accepted but the rcgirnertted danse macabre of the sequence is not to cv'ct‘yone‘s taste. li\pet'iencctl ballroom dancers. for w born the lloor is a lorum for self-evpress'ion. may regard it as strictly mothballs. The advantage. according to (jeorgie. is that ISH Couples can glide around gliny w ithotrt fear ol'collision tshe hasn‘t seen me dance). while in modern ball:oont a mere half dozen shimmy ing stimmns can reduce the affair to a dodgern rally. A few hours earlier. I too had becrt
Latin Fever: Glasgow‘s own ballroom greats Donnie Burns and Gaynor Fairweather generate heat
expressing myself - albeit in a langtrage I didn‘t understand at The Dance Factory in nearby (‘alder Street. I was part of a class ol seven learner _iivcrs. a poor turnout this vv cek. l'ttt assured. .-\ piece of advice: never attend a dance class with an odd number of pupils. Like a rookie on the parade ground. I stood shiftily awaiting the
Inspired in part by Strictly
Ballroom, Elizabeth confessed her secret love of dancing to workmate Gordon.
commands of Dave Wood. a dance instructor of forty years' e\perience. with _i()l\'Cs to match.
Having turned tip midway through the class's instruction in the live. I was already one step behind. Without the
You know when you’ve been tangoed
benefit of sponge-soled shoes. my
‘ humiliation was complete. ()ne‘two-
three-four. back. replace . . the words I now know by heart. .-\fter‘ art hour of all-in wrestling with the unfortunate
female sttrdcrrts. during which I
contrived to turn the ‘Amcrican spin'
irtto a forrn of ('hinese torture. l was pretty sure I could manage the basic steps if. (iod forbid. anyone should ask
With me throughout my odyssey were (ior'don Matheson and lilizabeth Kennedy. two newcomers to ballroom dancing for whom the mechanical pageant at The Plaza was a pin to burst their bubble. After all. once you‘ve learned the basics. where do yotr display your talents except at weddings or in pr'iv'ate‘.’
last two months ago. inspired in part by Baz Lultrmann‘s cinematic waltz. Strictly Bull/7mm. [Elizabeth confessed