Friday, April 19, 2013

Itchy Feet (Dance Academy), 11th April

I have been saying for ages that I’d love a chance to swing … dance that is! (ha ha ha… sooo hilarious) Or jive. Or lindy hop. Any of those moves that drive me green with envy when I go to a retro night and watch everyone else who seems to know what they’re doing and just look so damn good doing it tearing up the dance floor. (And some of them go pretty quickly - you need to be pretty brave to venture on there.)

And I know there are plenty of places offering lessons in such things, but I wasn’t sure about going to proper lessons on my own (my boyfriend not being inclined to join me).

During one of my customary sweeps of my List to see if anything on there is coming up soon, I discovered that Itchy Feet run something they call a Dance Academy, where they teach you some jive-type moves! Not only this, but rather like Dr Sketchy, where the focus is on the drinking rather than the drawing, there was a heavy emphasis on the cocktail side of things. They said you can turn up without a partner and it all seemed geared toward the curious amateur. It sounded perfect.

I organised a Meetup to it, so there were quite a few of us going. We had a couple of drinks beforehand for some dutch courage and then went into the Book Club where we had a couple more just to be on the safe side. I don’t need to document here my love of the Book Club, least of all because I will be back there fairly soon to give my judgement on Electro Swing which is hosted there sporadically. I love the Book Club for its eclectic lineup of events and tasty drinks.

Anyway, so we were all down in the basement waiting for the lessons to start. Only 100 tickets are sold for this, which doesn’t sound like many but actually showing some dance moves to such a number in not a huge space is a bit tricky, and the group had to be split in two and take turns. (This gave everyone plenty of time in between to either practise what they’d just learned, or have another drink and start to forget it.)

You lined up with your partner across the aisle from you and the girl first showed us two basic moves – the first of which I didn't catch the name, the other the box step. We then practised this on our own until we felt a bit silly. Then we advanced towards our partners, and attempted to mesh what we had been doing with what they had been doing. I must say, I had quite an accomplished partner and we seemed to be doing rather well at it.

Our instructor then went slowly through the moves of incorporating a turn, and even this didn’t put us off our stride. She went around the room to check on the couples and give little pointers if needed, but I’m pretty sure she uttered a ‘whoop!’ when she went past us. *smug much*

Then it was a break and the next lot were taught what we’d now ‘perfected’.

I had an aperol spritz, a cocktail I’d just discovered at a wedding and went through some of the steps again. Dressing up is optional but if you don’t have anything to hand to wear, Itchy Feet provide a little treasure trove of accessories and whatnot to jazz up your outfit and the breaks in between give you a chance to rummage a little – just remember to return what you’ve borrowed!

Soon enough our group was called back to the floor.

This time, the instructor was a little sneaky. We lined up as before, but she took one of the girls from the girl side down to the other end of the line thus ensuring weshifted along by one and had a new partner to work with. I ended up with some guy I didn’t know, whose girlfriend was next to me. Naturally - because the likelihood was that you were dancing with someone you didn’t know - this was when the instructor introduced the most intimate move we’d learned all night; a back turn that lead you to being pulled into your partner. The guy I was dancing with wasn’t quite as savvy as my previous partner, but he was fun and friendly, and luckily so was his girlfriend who didn’t seem to mind us practicing such moves on each other. One of my friends reported she was in a similar situation and the girlfriend next to her wasn’t as happy about it, snatching her man back as soon as possible!

After the second group had had their go that was that. We’d learned as much as we were going to that night and I was satisfied with that amount. We’d been practising our moves to some 50s music and that music continued after the lesson was over. Almost immediately everyone's just-gleaned knowldge was thrown out the window and they resorted to stock 50s moves like the ‘mashed potato’ and the ‘twist’ but a few of us tried to consolidate our learning for next time. The music was top notch – all recognisable rock n roll classics of the era – some Elvis, some Little Richard, Do You Love Me from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. All stuff it was hard to resist dancing to.

I’d definitely recommend the Itchy Feet Dance Academy to anyone who wants to get into this kind of thing but is hesitant to start. I’d go again myself though I don’t know if they teach different things each time. It really is for the complete beginner. Still – it remains to be seen whether I’ve definitely remembered the moves and if I’ve forgotten I’d certainly go back for a refresher course. And of course, having had a taster of the kind of music they play, I will also make sure to go to one of their regular Itchy Feet parties.

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.