Are You Dancing? Are You Asking?

Today I was reinitiated into the joys of ‘social dancing’.

For the unenlightened, this is the kind of dancing your mammy and daddy might have done. Well, actually, my mammy and daddy didn’t do these dances. They were more your tango and fox trots and waltzes. But you get my drift.

You know the kind of dances. ‘The Gay Gordons’, ‘The Saint Bernard’s Waltz’, ‘The Canadian Barn Dance’ and ‘Strip the Willow’, among others. These are the dances that teachers like to encourage the ten to twelve year olds to learn for the day when, ‘You might be at a wedding or a ceilidh.’

In fact, the children involved today will do these dances at their school Christmas party.

A lot of schools have moved away from inflicting this punishment on children. I don’t know whether some child or other in the past begged their parents to take the education authorities to the European Court of Human Rights to ensure that their civil liberties were not impinged upon. But social dancing has rather gone the way of the dodo.

One of the schools I go to has, however, decided that it is still a valuable lesson in humility and had a practice today. I wouldn’t normally have been involved but I had a ‘Please Take’ scenario.

Three class loads of kids piled into the gym hall and were then instructed to choose a partner. The same one as the week before. So they had already had some practice at this. Nevertheless, the faces of some of the boys and girls were a study as they struggled with who to ask and then shuffled beside them awkwardly, trying not to make eye contact. There are always the one or two who are quite up for it. Worth a watching those ones.

I smiled to myself remembering this horrible experience from my own days at primary school. It could have been worse, right enough. My secondary school involvement in dances was a hundred times more humiliating considering I went to an all girls’ school.  So that didn’t make for much fun in the dancing stakes. Especially as a teenager.

We were allowed to invite boys from the local co-ed school once we reached our fifth year at secondary. I was about fifteen, I remember. We were all glad- ragged up and the boys were there. So too were the teachers. Old, wizened women who had never smiled since they were babes. Patrolling the assembly hall and ensuring that all partners stayed well apart from each other. No risk of Christmas kisses there. Or even a smoochie dance. No, no, no, it was all very disco from a distance. Status Quo and head banging. Some Slade and Sweet thrown in for good measure. While Macbeth’s witches shook their heads in dismay at the volume of the music and cackled to themselves every time they split up a possible meaningful relationship.

Anyway, back to today.

Heights between and within the year groups varied quite widely so we tried to pair the children so that the boys’ arms could actually reach above their partner’s shoulders. And so they didn’t look too ridiculous. We’re not that cruel.

The girls are really quite mature in their approach to the business of dancing with boys and some even extended their hands expecting to have them taken. At this point, many of the boys pulled the sleeves of their jumpers down over their hands to ensure no possible contamination from members of the opposite sex. An interesting way of dealing with the problem. But one I have observed many times before.

With instructions not to be ridiculous, they began. After demonstrations from two of the other teachers. A young lass reading the instructions from a pile of notes. Step, two, three, stamp, stamp. Step left ……you know how it goes.

The ceilidh music began and off they stepped. I wanted a video! You really would have to have been there. The almighty exertions of these children to follow what to them were convoluted steps while trying to hang onto their sleeves and count out the time to the music was a joy to behold.

So much better than the panto I had to endure the other week!

Not content with watching and encouraging I’m afraid I just had to join in. I’d forgotten how much I liked ‘Strip the Willow’.

It was a good day. And the children definitely improved. So in future years they can join in any wedding or ceilidh with ease! Very worthwhile practice, I think. And so much fun to watch. They were laughing at the end too so it couldn’t have been as horrific as all their protestations would have had us believe. Enjoying school? Teachers and pupils? Ridiculous!


24 thoughts on “Are You Dancing? Are You Asking?”

  1. How I love to read your posts! I feel you are talking to us all and I even imagine that lovely accent of yours {oh, no that’s true, I am the one with the accent}. This brings memories to mind when I was in Grade 10 we had to do this because our English teacher, Sister Mary Dufferin was a professional dancer before she went off and married God that summer (truly! She made her vows at 28) and she wanted to teach us “social dancing” to which students volunteered…we didn’t have enough time for all students…and yes, I declined. But with my being so tall in grade 5 or 6 I would have had to be the guy in the dancing …by 12 I was already 5’6″ and still growing.


    1. Some of the kids were like that today. I had the oldest class there and one or two of them were just about up to my head. I used to be 5’6 3/4″. But I’ve lost the three quarters somewhere along the line. Convent school girl too, huh?
      Funny, I really like ceilidh dancing now. Such a whirl. Och, who am I kidding. I just love dancing. :)x


      1. Not a convent actually but a Catholic co-ed High School…St Patrick’s of course. Only 2 years at that school and the nuns were the best! they were from Montreal, so for small towners like us, they were pretty hip and fun. I shrunk too…used to be 5ft7 and a bit…I joke that I will be an average height for a Quebecois woman when I hit 80!


      2. Oh god, our nuns weren’t. Shakespeare missed an opportunity for characterisation there when he didn’t get to meet our crew. Then another lot at college for teaching. They weren’t just as bad. But they weren’t great either. Don’t think hip and fun would ever have featured in their vocabulary.
        terrible when someone pinches your height. I like my high heels anyway so I’m really more 5′ 8’ish or more sometimes! :)x


      3. Our religion teacher would tell us to study for my Geometry during that class. Says Sister Mahoney, “If you don’t know your faith by now after drilling it in your heads for 10 years, I’m not going to make much of a dent there so prepare for exams.” wow!, eh?


      4. You have to keep in mind this was 20 years after the reign of a terrible premier who manipulated citizens with Catholicism…people were slowly breaking away…sisters were dressing like you and me in 1968.


      5. I know next to nothing I’m afraid of Canadian history. But anyone who manipulates deserves a kick in the nethers! After the second Vatican Council then. Revolution in the offing! It makes for a more understanding relationship when ‘they’ seem ‘normal’. ;)x


  2. Man, does that bring back some memories. Too shy by half so the teachers would deliberately stick you with someone you hated, so you learned pretty fast to get up and grab someone to dance with. Mind you, you also didn’t grab anyone who was classified as ‘hot’ or you got yourself seriously worked over by their male ‘hanger-ons’ that would jump out a window if they so much as tossed their little curls. Oooh, look at the imprint that those times have caused, scarred my poor brain for life. Plus I was a late bloomer, I thought girls bodies WERE for dancing, if I only knew 🙂


    1. Gawd, I never even thought of that. Retribution at the hands of the hangers-on. Scars running deep. But at least you got in there and went for it. Girls’ bodies are for dancing. That’s what mine tells me all the time. Love it. :)x


Comments are closed.