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At the beginning of my second year I decided to join the Ballroom Dancing Society. This decision was provoked by a few things. I had spent my first-year vegetating in my townhouse, so wanted to do more exercise and I missed performing but didn’t feel I had enough time as Arts and Culture Editor of SCAN to commit to an LUTG show. I also desperately wanted to learn to dance. I’d done a lot of musical theatre before coming to University but had never much dancing, as I have the coordination of Ant McPartlin in a car. For these reasons, I decided to give ballroom a go, and was fortunate that my best friend Wallis was also enthusiastic about joining, so I didn’t have to worry about finding a partner. This was a huge relief as I pictured finding a partner would be like picking teams in P.E..
And so we both started going to beginners sessions on Monday evenings. The society offers beginners, novice, and advanced lessons with professional instructors, priced at just £3 for a lesson. We began with the waltz and took an hour to learn how to go up and down the room, with the poise of Gemma Collins as she fell from the stage at the Teen Awards. A few weeks later and we had improved, we now knew what the cha-cha-cha and the jive were, and we also knew that we weren’t very good at them. However, our fortunes changed when Wallis joined the society exec which meant she had to go to more dance sessions, and that I as her partner followed suit. We now had more opportunities per week to be not very good at dancing.
Everything changed when we had the opportunity to perform in the society’s Charity Showcase, which is an event featuring performances from dance and theatre societies from across campus. We decided to perform in the opening number, a group jive routine to Bruno Mars’ ‘Runaway Baby’, a song which is no longer a song in my eyes, but the sound of pain and fear. As Bruno has warbled I have fallen, starved, and kicked people supposedly by accident. If Bruno Mars were to die, it would be a great day indeed. We practiced this routine for weeks and weeks. Sometimes I think I’m still practicing it and then I remember that we are because we keep performing this fucking routine over and over again.
However, this has been no bad thing. I have been fortunate to perform the routine at Blackpool Tower, a place which looks so much nicer on television, when the BBC have de-liced the audience. The Tower Ballroom is beautiful, and the floor is so slippery and bouncy it’s like dancing in Kelly Brook’s cleavage. Practicing the routine we performed in Blackpool and at the Showcase really helped us improve, so much so that we got very good at this routine, and forgot everything else we had learned.
Following this we now have to relearn the waltz and the jive. Speaking as a beginner with very little knowledge of dance technique, our jive is the best routine conceived by man. We throw some serious shapes. Not necessarily in the right order, but we exist to break the mould. Our year of dance will culminate in us competing with these two routines at Roses, where we will be lucky if we even turn up, since the competition is on the Sunday and neither of us is prepared to miss out on Sugar the night before.
I have had the best year in Ballroom. I have met some really fun and patient people who have really helped me out. I’ve learnt that people can go from being a beginner with no ability to being able to dance really well, and one day I hope to be one of these people. I have got so involved that I am now one of the Media and Communications Officers which means I can use my lack of ballroom expertise to contribute to the running of the ballroom society.
One thing I’ve learnt this year is that all societies are open to everyone, and if you want to do something, just do it. I have gone from being a complete beginner in dance to entering competitions within the space of the year (note the use of entering not winning), so find a society you like the look of, take part and have a go and you will improve. I promise it will be one of the highlights of your university experience.