Shuffle Hop Step Tap Ball Change

Lower legs and feet wearing pink satin ballet shoes tied around the ankles with ribbons.

This is the story of a little boy from Oklahoma who had a dream. A dream to dance. And he lived his dream. Briefly. But with it being so far removed from his smalltown Oklahoma reality (not to mention the fact his dream came true over 4000 miles away from home, on a continent he’d never yet visited), the memory of those halcyon days have since been filed in his brain under ‘In Case Of Emergency Look Here For Long Forgotten Stimuli That May Bring Me Out Of A Coma If The Unfortunate Need Should Ever Arise’. I assume the giddiness of such a dream coming true has messed with the ‘it absolutely did really happen/it’s too fabulous to have really happened’ divide, and the grown man has sadly no recollection of this part of his childhood.

But I was there. I remember. I REMEMBER IT ALL!

The first rule about Dance Class is you don’t talk about Dance Class; you express it through the medium of DANCE! And dance we did. Our little four-year old legs throwing themselves out in all directions as our arms tried to keep up. Sticking our tummies out because, well, because we were only four and had not yet learnt the word ‘posture’.

And this is how I first met Brian. Brian with the very short shorts and the tap shoes with the very big bows. Brian tapped his way into every class and tapped his way out again. His Shuffle Hop Step Tap Ball Change was the envy of us all.

Don’t you remember any of this, Brian? The classes covered Ballet, Tap and Modern dance. ‘Modern’ being anything that wasn’t Ballet or Tap. And Ballet and Tap were merely defined by the shoe. Those early years presented little distinction between the forms, given that as human beings we were still learning basic coordination. Ballet was just very quiet tap-dancing. Don’t you remember doing Ballet, Brian? By the time we were eight or nine, we’d learnt how to wrap those satin ribbons round our legs like proper ballet dancers. You spent hours practising with your satin ribbons. And we discovered the secret to balancing on our toe tips, without it hurting, was to cut off our circulation by tying the ribbons really tight, rendering our feet numb. The reality was we never progressed to going ‘En Pointe’, so the opportunities to wear the classic satin ballet shoes were rare. Much to your disappointment.

There was only one other lad in the class, so as we grew up and advanced into more complicated routines and to PUTTING ON SHOWS, because I was tall, I was often cast in a boy’s role. This was the Seventies, so boy/girl divides were the order of the day. The upside being we were able to rehearse our routines together. And we rehearsed during every spare minute didn’t we, Brian? Do you still not recall any of this? We would run through our steps, helping each other keep time, although you often found yourself gravitating towards the ‘girl’ part. I often felt you weren’t entirely comfortable learning the boy routines.

And do you still know all the words to ‘Oliver’? I do. One of my favourite musicals and any of those show tunes can take me right back to dance class. I’m surprised you don’t remember us being cast in ‘Oliver’. Don’t you have even the vaguest recollection of the Dockyard Pantomimes? Each Christmas, the little theatre in our local Naval Base, hosted a pantomime and we’d feature in several numbers. All those sailors. Surely you recall the sailors, Brian? Those British Naval uniforms were chorus-line ready. I know all the nice girls love a sailor, but I was too young for such. Besides, I’d already given my heart to David Bowie, at the totally inappropriate age of seven.

Perhaps you remember the costumes we wore? Pixies? Military? Swans? Don’t you remember being a swan, Brian?

Well, I don’t know what else I can recount to help jog that memory of yours. I mean, you LIVED it. You were THE DANCE. You marched your band out. You beat your drum. It was YOUR DREAM! It happened, Brian. It really happened.

 

Footnote;

This little piece was inspired by the rather marvellous Mr Lageose (no, I’m not entirely sure how to pronounce it either, never had to, never asked), resident raconteur at Bonnywood Manor. This was the dream of a boy from Oklahoma. I’ve made that dream a reality here, because it was indeed my reality. The details are true. I only attended dance classes until around the age of twelve, but it was a huge creative escape during my early years. I wasn’t any good, but the legacy of those days lives on, not least in the fact I have really stretchy hamstrings.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Iris Barnes. A French-looking, chain-smoking theatrical luvvie who clapped out Triple Time Steps in her sleep. My introduction to winged eye-liner, uncomfortable tights and David Bowie.

The Editor

If you enjoyed this post, head to The Lockwood Echo’s Hot Off The Press page and peruse the other amusing articles on offer. If you didn’t enjoy this post, please feel free to drop your thoughts onto a postcard, cut it up into little pieces and pop it down your waste disposal unit.

 

 

22 comments

  1. This was really gorgeous. I really loved it. It brought back the memories of my own dance class experiences when I was a teenager, especially the longing (and failing) to progress to β€œEn Pointe”. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, thankfully it was before the advent of the video camera and mobile phone, so unless someone has some rare film footage, I can rest assured my lack of grace and ability on the stage will never come to light πŸ˜‰ We live in a world where we’re encouraged to dance like no-one’s watching, so dance, regardless of how you think it looks, stay nimble and I know you’re gonna keep Rockin’ πŸ˜‰ Thankyou for moseying on down πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You had me grinning from ear to ear with this one, trite as that sounds. This was the second email I opened today, right after one announcing that microwave ovens are on sale at Best Buy just as the door on our current model is threatening to fall off, thus irradiating our domicile. It’s truly been a glorious correspondence session so far, and you have immeasurably brightened my existence, effortlessly capturing my little dreams and yearnings. Nothing can compare to the heady mix of bittersweet nostalgia and potential-frugality that is wrapping me in a cloud of goodness right now… πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 4 people

    • Better to be wrapped in a cloud of goodness than a cloud of radioactivity. I had such fun writing this. To know that it has brought your dream to life and imagining you now tripping the light fantastic like you were born to, in your kitchen in the spotlight of a nuclear meltdown, well, it just warms my heart. Or is that the radiation? Either way. Dance on Brian. Dance on! πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, how you have made me smile! So many memories of my ill-fated dance classes β€” including the lone “Brian,” and my also being cast in the boys’ roles because I could do all the feisty leaps and (more or less) pick up the other girls. May Iris Barnes indeed rest in peace … and may her legacy live on in the thousands of former students who can dance to David Bowie. PS: “If you didn’t enjoy this post, please feel free to drop your thoughts onto a postcard, cut it up into little pieces and pop it down your waste disposal unit.” HA HA! Fortunately, I can’t imagine anyone not loving this post. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • You too? Although it sounds like you were much more advanced than me. I don’t remember doing any kind of (on purpose) big leaping or having to pick anyone up. It was merely because I was one of the tallest (gangliest) and not as petite (or blonde) as the other girls. Yes, just the one boy, mostly, who always stood at the back. I hope he enjoyed the classes. We did a routine to ‘Space Oddity’, and I still have the costume. That was my introduction πŸ˜‰ . When Iris Barnes died, the dance school was still going and put on a memorial show at the local theatre. Although a couple of decades since I’d last been part of the school, a couple of my fellow dancers were now teachers. The theatre is a real proper little British theatre and we used to do variety performances there, (but only the older girls got picked for THAT pantomime πŸ˜‰ ). I’m very happy you read to the very end, I’ve finished off a few of my recent posts like that but wonder how many get that far! So happy this made you happy fellow dancer and thankyou so very much for reading and adding your wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I don’t know if I was very “advanced” β€” I could do a few fancy tricks, but only to one side. Now you have me wondering what became of poor Harold Hinrichs, though; hopefully he’s putting those ballet lessons to good use somewhere, lol. And … OF COURSE i read to the very end! Your posts are so chock-full of smiles that I like to savor every single one. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

    • ‘Tripping’ is probably the keyword here πŸ˜‰ We never did any of the ballroom dances, such as waltz, tango etc. But I remember learning the polka, which was fast and fun. I have a suspicion Mr Lageose knows how to throw a shape or two πŸ˜‰.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My Mum started a ballroom dancing group in our very, very small town, so i learnt a lot as a teenager …. not sure I remember them now. I do have found memories of doingvthe Foxtrot to Neil Diamonds “Beautiful Noise”.😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This was perfect! And it’s such a shame if Brian didn’t remember it because I can totally see him there!
    And… *gasp*… you know all the words to Oliver too?! I own the movie, wanna come over? We can sing at the top of our lungs and, YES, DANCE!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m on my way! I’ll recreate my role of ”street urchin’, complete with burnt cork smudges for a dirty face, I know all the tricks of the trade πŸ˜‰ Thankyou so much for your kind words and yes, it is such a shame Brian can’t recall any of this. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Obviously, wonderfully imaginative and humorous! I especially loved thinking about the 4 year olds puffing out their chests. I’m fairly certain there is a tape somewhere in an attic of me and 25 other four year olds in sparkly red tutus haphazardly jumping up and down off beat. We also had one sole boy. I cannot recall his name so let’s call him, Steve. How I miss Steve.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have any memory of those first dancing years, because I don’t have any early memories. But I hope we were as cute as you sound in your little sparkly red tutus! Another fellow child dancer 😊. To the Steves of this world; we hope you’re out there, strutting your stuff, and if you’re still standing at the back, we hope it’s only because you choose to. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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