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!