It was some time after Gary Boon started playing my song Sugar Push Blues at some of his dances that our dancing friends Geoff and Helen suggested that I should write a song for Calpe. In October 2016, Bic and Simone Graham staged the first ever Calpe Swing Fiesta on the Costa del Sol, Spain. The weeklong event attracted swing dance teachers from all over the world. Sarah and I were only able to attend for the first three days because of working commitments. However, our stay at the Diamanté Beach Hotel where the whole spectacle took place was such a blast that to miss out on the whole week in October 2017 was simply not an option.
Without undermining any of the teachers – we learnt so much from them all – the star attraction (apart from Bic and Simone) was teacher and possibly the coolest lindy hop and swing dancer around, Ryan Francois. Sarah never lets me forget that she had the privilege of dancing with him once; she even has a photo of them both in action on the dance floor hung up on the wall in our home. My own dance teacher calls him God. Professional teacher, dancer and recent choreographer for BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, Ryan Francois’ teaching style and personality had us all flocking to his lessons. He and his partner Genia, who he refers to as G (I stole a lovely dance from her on the last night), were a perfect double act and we were all able to take so much from their classes.
At the end of one of their classes, he said to us all:
“Bic and Simone have put on a great event that deserves to go on and on, and it brings nice people.”
I made a note of that, and asked him later if I could quote him. He said, “Yes, of course. I said it and I meant it.” The words, “…brings nice people,” reflect the essence of our whole dancing community. Some people don’t like the word “nice”. They say it makes people sound boring. However, I like it and I’m not afraid to use it to describe people, as people can be nice while also possessing a whole lot of other interesting and fascinating talents and attributes.
The holiday brought lindy hop dancers from beginners right the way through to experts together for one almighty party. Lessons, dances, great food, excursions, new friendships, rekindled old ones, sun, sea, sand, music, Buck’s Fizz at breakfast, poolside parties, a hilarious water polo competition, blow-up flamingos and a little sleep from time to time – with the option, of course, to opt out for a little more sleep if necessary. One of our friends said that it was the best holiday he’d ever had. Despite a few hitches such as a speaker blowing up, cancelled inward flights due to industrial action from French air traffic control and Bic’s brief spell of hospitalisation, Bic and Simone kept the show going seamlessly and without any obvious fuss.
Only a few weeks before the holiday, I managed to complete the task of composing and recording the song that Geoff and Helen put me up to, calling it Down by the Pool, for The Calpe Swing Fiesta 2017. I needed some reassurance that it was ok. Sarah, Geoff and Helen all loved it and suggested that I should send it to Bic and Simone. Simone suggested that before I put it out on YouTube and social media etc., we should “debut” it at a poolside dance.
Debut of my song Down by the Pool, filmed with dancers at the poolside
Having had the thrill of seeing everyone dance to it (even Ryan!), it’s now time for me to get it out there for other people to hear. It was received much better than I could have dreamt of, if I’m honest. To add to the fun, some of us created new lyrics to reflect the events of this superb holiday, the unmissable Calpe Swing Fiesta. Bic and Simone gave me the opportunity to perform it live – it’s such a long time since I’ve done anything like that. It was a real thrill for me. They are such fantastic people and great sports. They are brilliant teachers and dancers. They are superb organisers. They are the perfect ambassadors for our incredible, inclusive dancing community. They’re nice too!
My live performance of Down by the Pool, with altered lyrics and a sneaky little dance with Simone. Bic comes in later
Sarah and I put our deposit down for next year’s Calpe Swing Fiesta before we left, as did many others. As Ryan says – It deserves to go on and on.
Thank you Bic, Simone and all the amazing teachers (Sarah was mesmerised by Hector’s bottom!). Thank you to the Diamanté Hotel for providing a perfect setting. Thank you to our friends old and new from our wonderful dancing community.
We’ll be back.
If you’re not a dancer, go onto YouTube to find out more about Bic and Simone, Ryan Francois, lindy hop and swing dance. If you like what you see, why not look out for lessons in your area?
*Since I wrote this blog, Sarah has managed to have another dance with Ryan at a different event. I’m sure she’ll remind from time to time!*
Please also check our website http://www.markdpritchard.com, which gives details of how to purchase my book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…). It tells the story of how I survived a brain haemorrhage in 2009, and how my wife, Sarah, beat breast cancer four years later. It was these illnesses that inspired us to take up Lindy Hop dancing in 2014. The paperback retails at £7.99 on Amazon, while the e-book is only £1.99. It is also available in all major currencies.
Here is my book promotional video: