essential to the correct functioning of this web site.
10: How I got into
There’s no escaping it: in my youth, I had “nerd” running
through the middle like “Blackpool” through a stick of rock.
My hobbies and interests (astronomy, weather, electronics)
were girl-free zones. When I went to university, I joined the
Ballroom Dancing Society (“BopSoc”) as an attempt to be more sociable,
not being comfortable in the less formal typical student environments
of bars and night clubs.
These were baby steps into dancing; the teaching was pretty basic but
it was a laugh, and every now and then we descended upon the ballroom
night at the local Palais de Dance (they still existed in those days)
and felt like the bee’s knees.
I soon found myself on the BopSoc committee, and organising a team to
enter the annual Inter-Varsity ballroom competitions (the first time
ever for my university). There was no Internet in those dark
ages, so I looked up dance teachers in the local directory and went to
knock on their door to see if I could interest them in coaching our
team... only to (by accident) land on Bryan Allen & Ann Baker –
now two of the biggest names in the ballroom dancing establishment.
I didn’t then (and still don’t) have the nerves for performing in
competition, and never intended to be part of the team (just the
manager), but in the second year we were short of a man... so I ended
up having to partner for Quickstep (too stressful for me!).
As students, we were short of money and certainly couldn’t afford
proper shoes or special clothes, and we were all absolute beginners –
up against the likes of Liverpool, Imperial, and Oxford, all with
long-standing traditions for a strong showing at the Inter-Varsity (and
sponsorship!). For us, it was just the taking part (and I
we laid the
foundation for the future – those who followed us actually hosted the
competition a few years later).
When I left university and started a career in electronics, job offers
took me away from home and uni, to South Wales. Alone in a
new place, I was faced with the same problem – so I went to find a
local dancing group. But young people of my era didn’t do
ballroom dancing (university seems to have been an exception), and I
socialising with the generation that did.
From then until I was sent to Canada for a period with my work, I
danced with a lovely (and presumably very tolerant) lady called Joan,
but after I came back I stumbled upon ex-competitor Jean – with whom I
could go to classes and lessons with everyone from Brenda &
Dennis Howell to Philip Wylie, Jennifer Hillier, Gary Foster, Lynette
Boyce... that was the start of a 26-year “journey” (as they would put
it on Strictly
– much derided, but can you think of a better word?)
until Jean died.
It is Jean’s legacy, and the privilege of dancing with the partners I
have had since, that makes me the dancer I am now... and the journey
And I remain a dyed-in-the-wool nerd. But now I am a nerd
about ballroom dancing!