Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do the Fandango

The social strata of dance classes is as painstakingly calibrated as the most cliquey American high school. Where you'd have jocks, geeks, stoners and the queen bees you get lindy-hoppers, waltzers, east coast swingers and salsa crazies. It's a phenomenon that spans continents, and is no respecter of skill-level. You can see the clan resemblance between the most ineffectual foxtroter and the professionals on Strictly. So before you sign up for the bogo pogo, it might be worth figuring out whose arms you want to be held in, and where your face will fit.

Salsa: There's a certain type of person that's attracted to the dance form I like think of affectionately as "the cheesy sleaze". Pretty girls in supportive bras and friendship groups, looking a couple of penis earrings short of a hen night. Blowsy middle-age women who look younger from the back. Oddly attractive men in their forties who've realised you won't focus on their bald patch if they're spinning you across the room. Short men who shuffle their feet.

Ballroom: Now as you get further up the food chain the dancers get more streamlined and intimidatingly made-up, but even before they learn twinkles and rictus grins, ballroom types usually fall into the following categories: Asian girls tottering in high heels. Elegant older women with long necks, who remind you of your primary school headmistress. Men with paunches and anxious eyes. Engaged couples who hiss at each other when one of them gets the turns wrong.

Lindy-hop: Despite my obvious personal interest in this category, I'd still argue that this is the easiest type to spot limbering up outside the studio. Look out for... Self-consciously quirky girls in tea-dresses and seamed tights. Men old enough to have danced it the first time round. Earnest couples who look like they also do guerrilla gardening. Stiff suits trying not to step on your toes. Unfeasibly attractive people you're too scared to dance with.

Ballet: A class which is not for the faint of heart, or loathe of leotard. If you step up to the barre you can look forward to be joined by... Very handsome, very gay men. Straight men who struck out at ballroom, salsa and swing and are now terrified they'll never meet that special someone. Girls with no breasts or thighs. Girls with breasts and thighs, and no preserving sense of shame.

The other truth (universally acknowledged) about dance classes is that, for many attendees, "want of a wife" (husband/lover/top/bottom/soulmate) is a major motivation for mastering an eight-count rhythm. Here my advice is simple: get thee to a ceilidh. After a few sweaty, raucous attempts to strip the willow you'll be much closer to getting your rocks off than you ever would be in a harshly lit dance studio, trying desperately not to look at your feet.

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