It’s been many years since the famous Roswell Incident, where it is claimed that a UFO landed in New Mexico, only to be covered up by the American government. I’m always a little suspicious of such claims, as conspiracy theorists are always aware of the easy exploitation of the human mind’s lack of ability to rationalise when it comes to something that they “want” to believe. I really want to believe that aliens landed – or, at the very least, that they exist – but I’m also aware of how easy it is deceive your own mind with wishful thinking. The belief in such things lends itself to the even more exciting claims of alien abduction. I would never dismiss anything like this as impossible. However, I know firsthand the convincing effects of hallucination whilst in a semi-conscious state, and that many people are unable, or unwilling, to rationalise when they have experienced such illusions. I’ll keep an open mind.
Last year, I had my very own taste of abduction. My wife, Sarah, and I were at a dancing event organised by our teachers, Izzy and Colin. It’s an annual weekend lindy hop workshop called Dance Blitz (or the DB Weekender), in Worcester, where teachers from the UK and worldwide give dance lessons over the course of two days, with a dance each evening. The teachers that Izzy and Colin bring in for the event are amongst the best in the world. As well as the lessons, they give us a dazzling display of their talents, and the whole weekend is a real treat for us lindy hoppers in so many ways.
The problem with being a beginner is that you can feel that the teachers are untouchable god/goddess-like beings, and that to dance with them would end in utter humiliation as you are “out of their league”. But it doesn’t work like that, as I found out to my delight last year when I first attended Dance Blitz. Bic and Simone are two highly regarded dancers and teachers from the south of England. They gave us a lesson on the Saturday and the Sunday, teaching us some lovely moves that we still use on the dance floor today. However, the thought of dancing with Simone filled me with terror. Why? Well, she certainly hadn’t come across as being anything other than a warm, friendly and approachable person.
But when you are new to this, there are two fears. Firstly, that the teacher will be SO good on the dance floor that it will make you look stupidly inadequate. Secondly, you have seen them dance some spectacular moves with some highly-proficient dancers, and that you will be giving them such a dull experience that you may as well just accept your station in life and leave them well alone so that they can be at the disposal of someone better who can give them a run for their money. But NOTHING could be further from the truth.
It happened on the Sunday afternoon, as the weekend event was coming to an end with a tea dance. Sitting at a table with my back to the dance floor, I was in the process of sinking my teeth into a Bakewell Tart when I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Would you like to dance?” asked Simone, as I turned around in horror. My words didn’t reflect my thoughts. “Yes, I’d LOVE to!”
So there I was on the dance floor, feeling as if my stabilisers had just been removed from my bike for the first time ever, wondering if I was about to make a complete mess of the whole thing. I felt almost as if I had been abducted by some alien and that some terrible fate were about to befall me. What I didn’t fully realise is that dance teachers just adapt to whoever they are dancing with, whatever their level. Every move I led she responded to with ease; any weaknesses in my lead were counteracted to make it look as if there was actually nothing amiss. It was the easiest dance I’d ever had in my 18 months of lessons and dances. A penny dropped in my mind. So this is what real dancers are all about! It was a little like driving a car with power steering for the first time ever.
Simone and me during a re-enactment of The Bakewell Incident
Ever since that moment, I have often joked that Bakewell Tarts have magical powers. It has become a standing joke amongst my dancing friends. I have since become more acquainted with Simone, and we laugh about it (she’s in on the joke, too). I no longer have any fear in asking her to dance. At the end of the day, she is a teacher and it is part of her role to dance with people of all levels. What beginners often don’t realise is that everything about our dancing community is light-hearted fun. Nothing matters. Mistakes are par for the course. We see new beginners from time to time (I think that Sarah and I are at an intermediate level now), and we try to do the same for them as Simone did for me during the Bakewell Tart Incident. We have just come back from another fantastic Dance Blitz weekend with the amazingly talented Gordon Webster band playing live at the evening dances. They are probably the number one band in the Lindy Hop world. I’ll need to do another blog about that. Bic and Simone were there again, with some other top class dancers/teachers, including Jenny Thomas who is a choreographer on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Bic and Simone at Dance Blitz 2016
Last year, during the Dance Blitz weekend itself, I was talking to Colin about how much work they must have put in to make the event what it is. I asked him when would he and Izzy start working on next year’s. He said, “I already have.” That just about sums up Dance Blitz, and the quality of the event reflects their hard work and dedication.
There is a moral to this. Bakewell Tarts do have magical powers, but dance teachers are not aliens.
Sarah and I also have an incredible story to share. Please visit our website www.markdpritchard.com to find out more.