I mentioned a few weeks ago that friends had dragged me along to their zumba classes. Much as I loved the class, when I spotted last week that there was a new modern jive class starting up only 15 minutes drive away, I knew I had to give it a go…even though the day clashed with zumba. Sods law, but dancing was always going to win out.
Before having N (right up to 8 months pregnant) I’d done 3 years of Ceroc and before that, a couple of years of salsa. In the UK, Ceroc is the main company doing modern jive classes with various independents popping up as well. There’s not much around me, most of the classes would be a 40+ minute drive, so I was really pleased to see this new class starting up.
It’s actually in a town that used to have a Ceroc class that I was involved with. When I arrived there were so many faces of people who’d started their dance journey at that venue. It was good to be back.
I’ve done a lot of dancing in my 30 odd years. 12 years of ballet, a few years of modern dance, then salsa and ceroc as an adult, plus a bit of west coast swing. My friends always try and get me on the dance floor at weddings and parties but I’m always self conscious about that. Having done structured dancing, and then being asked to dance (alone) is terrible.
With modern jive being a partner and social dance, they teach core moves that the man (or leader) can then pick and choose from during freestyle. There’s also a friendly atmosphere where it’s frowned upon to turn down the offer of a dance. The moves are built up gradually in lessons, breaking them down into counts to make them easy to learn, so in just one lesson a total beginner can get through a freestyle dance. It doesn’t take long to get to a reasonable level even if you’ve never danced before. I’ve done some ballroom before, but it’s not the same – it’s formal, and if you’re a girl with no set partner to dance with, you’ll end up dancing alone because most people go in couples and there’s no switching round.
When I was younger, I was shy and was always a self conscious dancer. As you get older, you don’t really care what you look like and it’s more about the connection with your partner, enjoying the music, the challenge and just making the dance look good. For me, I can just let myself go. I know I can dance, I can follow most leaders without too much trouble, and I just love dancing. A bit of a body roll or shimmy, hair flick or head roll, and I can channel Strictly Come Dancing with the best of them.
So yesterday’s free opening night was a great chance to get back to dancing after 5 years. I’ve always found Jive+ to be an older crowd to Ceroc. The good thing about modern jive is that anyone can do it. Most people get obsessed and many have been dancing for years so you’ll always get a mix of dances. There were a lot of faces there I recognised from the freestyles I’d been to over the years. There was also the bonus of some of my favourite male dancers from the old Oxford classes I used to do.
I led in the beginners class because there were more women than men. In the past I was a taxi dancer for a couple of years (their job is to make sure beginners have someone to dance with, make them feel welcome, ask people to dance, and teach the beginners review class), so had been used to leading regularly. I was pleased to make it through not only the class, but also remember some of the old moves and lead through a whole freestyle song. Happy days. Dancing’s a bit like riding a bike, you never lose it (although my spins need a bit of work). I even had one woman complement me on my leading.
We learnt some really nice moves in the intermediate level class and then it was general freestyle where it’s just a free for all.
The one thing that was noticeable was my lack of condition and fitness. I always used to get hot dancing even at my lightest, but after only one dance I needed a breather and some water. It’s definitely something I need to work on. Shame so few venues have air conditioning.
Being out of the dance world for nearly 5 years did mean I didn’t recognise a lot of the music. So I was having to concentrate on following the moves and my partner’s signals, but also anticipating what the music was doing to add some styling.
I had some great dances with my favourite dancers, a good chat with old dancing friends and just generally soaked up the atmosphere before heading off home, hot and tired but happy.
Driving home I decided that dancing is a bit like driving. After my first driving lesson I went home absolutely full of it, feeling that it gave me the feeling of being free. Dancing is just like that. If it’s good, it takes you to another place, and when you step outside the bubble, you’re on a high afterwards.
And I pity everyone who was at work the next day who had to listen to how brilliant it was!
Have you ever danced? What have you returned to after having children?
You can now read about modern jive and my return journey to it, at my dance blog What about Dance.