Tripping the Light-Fantastic

By Steve Elsbury 

Sunday, April 29th, 2007 was the day of the second Supadance competition of 2007 and dawned bright and clear.....which is more then can be said of my wife Carol, who awoke awash with nausea. We whiled away a few hours of the morning hoping for her condition to improve, but it became clear there was no way she would be match-fit. A quick text was sent out to Paula saying that I would be there but sans-partner. We were hoping someone could be found, otherwise we would be a couple short for the team match, and we didn't want to let down the other team members - let alone the club in general.

I duly set off. The trusty GPS almost did it's stuff, as it deposited me bang at the entrance to the venue....which was closed! Now this was not the largest school in the world, but it has to be up there in the top ten, so after a quick phone call to fellow Team-member John for directions, I drove around the biggest block imaginable and found the other entrance. In I went, and once in the dance hall (sports hall) I was greeted by a smiling Sylvie, who had kindly volunteered to be my partner for the day. Well, I say volunteered, but I later discovered she was given very little choice by a stern-faced Auntie Paula, who has always been one to recognise a brick wall when her back's up against it! Sylvie's protestations of not having expected to dance, not being prepared, not having the right dress or shoes, not wanting to dance with a total muppet, etc., were dismissed with an airy wave......"You'll be FINE" said Paula!

Sylvie and I have never danced together before, but fortunately there was a little mirrored gym which made a great practice space. Very much aware that Sylvie's son (who has probably forgotten more steps then I know) was watching with an eagle eye to make sure his Mum was not trampled, kicked or in any way abused, we worked our way through a basic Waltz, Quickstep, Cha-cha-cha and Jive. We both decided that 'basic' was the way to go, as I lack any kind of discernible lead ability and sadly Sylvie turned out not to be telepathic (women today, huh?) - but having said that, the practice felt very good so we returned to the hall to wait our turn to dance. Whilst waiting, Sylvia told me she had just returned from South Africa from holiday - that very day in fact. Now that's dedication, coming straight to a dance comp! She said it was not actually South Africa, it was <insert name of town here>, and it's amazing how many people don't know where that is. I chuckled. You know that little laugh you do when you don't actually know something either, but are a tiny bit ashamed to admit it? S'OK though - I carried it off and no-one's any the wiser! Sadly, that includes me, because I can't remember the name of the town now either!

Carol and I have got into the habit of not doing the supporting dances (see previous articles re nerves, abject terror, poor memory, etc), but everyone assumed I would be dancing this one. That's probably my cunning plan of making everyone think it was Carol who didn't want to dance the supportings, where actually it was me all along! This time, however, I was trapped, as there was no way I could say to Sylvie I didn't want to do the supporting dance without it seeming rude.

They duly called the event and a vast number of couples took to the floor (all of whom were saying by their body language "I'm so much better then might as well go home now, you loser"), so the competitors were separated into two heats. When our turn came, Sylviw and I took up hold and off we went. Basic down one side, a spin turn around the corner then more basic across the end, during which I was announcing the upcoming steps to make up for my inadequate lead and also, sadly, managing to slip off time (See? I can do two things at once!). We clawed our way back on to the beat and enjoyed the rest of the Waltz....and then enjoyed the Quickstep, and then the Cha cha cha too. I realised while dancing that I was smiling more or less the whole time. Now previously, I had asked those vastly more experienced then I, what the secret was for the competition smile, and had been told there was no secret - simply enjoy it and the smile comes naturally. So I managed to put two and two together and realised I had enjoyed it because we had been dancing basic. I therefore had none of the usual pressure to remember the 'routine' (which is, of course, bolted down in stone - in that any attempt to change it makes my brain curdle and run out of my ears). Want to know the worst bit? Carol's been suggesting for months that we should not try to fit in every step we know (or more accurately, don't quite know yet!). I hate it when they're right, don't you? I think they do it on purpose, just to be annoying.

After I had got my breath back, I apologised to Sylvie for having slipped off the beat, and she asked if she had been holding me back. How nice is that? Nope, I told her, that was a cock-up I managed entirely on my own so no fair trying to claim the credit! Anyway, now we had time to sit back and wait for the team matches. A nice little breather? Wrong. We got a call-back! Colour me happy. We took up hold again and whisked off (I don't mean a whisk and chassis, y'understand, I just mean...oh never mind). Down one side, spin in the corner, up the end....and my timing faltered in exactly the same place! A heartbeat before I could get worried I heard a voice murmur "one two three, one two three". So how lucky am I? Not only does Carol keep me on time, but Sylvie did too - wonderful stuff. I relaxed into the dance and for the first time ever, actually had time to observe other couples as we danced. I very much look forward to the day when all the steps I know get ingrained in muscle memory like that but, for the moment, they usually demand intense concentration. Remove pressure, increase enjoyment or, as our instructor Mark has said to me so often, "..don't endure...enjoy!" Smug git. I hate him, don't you?

Time for a proper break now before the team matches, and I nipped outside to give Carol a ring and sneak a crafty fag. 5 minutes later, John shot out of the door calling "Steve - quick - you're in the final"! Whaaaaaat? No way! I hurtled through the door, shouting "Gotta go" to Carol then thrusting the phone into the outstretched hand of one of the event organisers who'd seen what was happening, raced across the dance floor to where Slyvie was waiting patiently for me - at the same time pulling the packet of fags and lighter out of my waistcoat pocket and flinging them in the rough direction of the Wright Rhythm section of seating - took up hold just as the music started....wait one heartbeat...step to the side, and we're off again! You know the drill by now: basic down one side, spin in the corner then up the end. Sylvie couldn't say "1, 2, 3" to me this time, because I was too busy apologising. Not for being late to the floor, but for the stink of ciggies she was having to put up with! There was one other difference in our Waltz this time, and that was when Jo came running down the floor towards us, mouthing 'number, number' - yes, so sure had I been that we wouldn't make the final that I'd donned my team match number. Jo reached us just as we went into a spin, and ripped the number from my back revealing the correct number underneath. Now I think about it, I'm sure the audience thought it was "all part of the act" - a kind of Bucks Fizz meets Ballroom!

Right - it really is time for Team Dances now, and the start was utter confusion. The senior team have been promoted to the first division, due to more teams joining in the competition and being placed in the second division. They told us this early on, then seemed to contradict themselves later, so we had to go and ask to be sure. We also had three teams in the adult section, although there were only two teams present - not sure what happened there. The fun we all had with the competitor numbers had to be seen to be believed. I think at one stage I had four numbers on, one atop the other, and I was at E2 when I should have been an N2 as well.

I lost track at some point during the team position announcements, but I believe the senior team came 4th in the senior match, and 12th or 14th in the adult which category we were demoted to the third's all awfully confusing, isn't it? I have no idea where the other adult team - i.e. the proper one - came...and it wasn't for want of trying to hear! Our team-mates Gillian and Howard achieved a well deserved win in the supporting dance.

What else was there? Let me see....Oh yes, I remember....Sylvie and I came 2nd, to Howard and Gill. So that'll teach me never to make assumptions then. First the call-back and then the final, neither of which I expected, then a high place. Basic wins the day then. Carol's always said "Less is more", which is a phrase I've never really understood until now. I can only put it down to Sylvie's skill...not to mention counting ability...ability to remember which number we are in which dance...ability to be on the dance floor ready to go when certain other people were off having a smoke....ability to tolerate a partner who runs across the floor flinging personal possessions hither and yon......the list is clearly a long one!