Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A-Jumpin' An' A-Jivin' At The Hula Boogie Jive & Rock N Roll Dance Class.

Hula Boogie Artwork
It's been awhile since I sat down in-front of the ol' laptop & typed away; a new blog post pouring out of my fingers tips into what I see before me, so I thought it was high-time that I got back to it. But, with so many things going on, what was I to find the time to write about? And then it hit me; why not create a post on my latest hobby... 'Jive' & 'Rock N Roll' dancing!

For any of you that know me personally, or for those who have read my blog posts before & 'About Me' section, you will only know too well about my love for all things 1930s-1960s, so after years of dressing in the style of all these bygone eras & staying up to the wee hours listening to my Elvis vinyls on my record player, clutching prettily-framed picture of my handsome boyfriend; fluffy pink mules on & vintage baby-doll draped over my body onto my plush, white carpet, I thought I should take up a few dance styles that I've always wanted to get into, to compliment my knowledge & love for these times & their cultural fashions.

There are tonnes of places in & around London that teach all sorts of vintage styles, but where was I to go & who & what would be right for me? Then, one cold & rainy evening, I was browsing Facebook for some groups & came across 'Hula Boogie'. They host vintage-themed dance nights & events etc., & as it just so happens, teach various dance styles, courtesy of the lovely Julie Miranda... How perfect! I've liked their group for awhile & their nights are great fun, so with no further delay, I visited their website. There, listed, they had various dance classes for beginners, to intermediate levels. I smiled to myself with glee. This is where I want to start, with 'Jive' dancing. It takes lots of practice, like most skills in life, but it's something that covers the basics of most standard 'Rock N Roll' moves & is straightforward enough for a beginner to pick up.
'Jive' dancing is a style of dance often referred to & more commonly classed as the lively & uninhibited variation of the 'Jitterbug'. What many people don't know, is that 'Jive' is actually one of the five, international Latin dances practiced & taught around the world:

"In competition it is danced at a speed of 176 beats per minute, although in some cases this is reduced to between 128 and 160 beats per minute.
Many of its basic patterns are similar to these of the East Coast Swing with the major difference of highly syncopated rhythm of the Triple Steps (Chasses), which use straight eighths in ECS and hard swing in Jive. To the players of swing music in the 1930s and 1940s "Jive" was an expression denoting glib or foolish talk. Or derived from the earlier generics for Giouba of the African dance Juba dance verbal tradition.
American soldiers brought Lindy Hop/Jitterbug to Europe around 1942, where this dance swiftly found a following among the young. In the United States the term Swing became the most common word used to describe the dance. In the UK variations in technique led to styles such as Boogie-Woogie and Swing Boogie, with "Jive" gradually emerging as the generic term." (Wikipedia).
At only £35 for three consecutive Tuesdays, I'd get one & a half hours of nothing but pure '50s energy & atmosphere. That sounded like the perfect combination for me, so after exchanging a few emails, I was booked-in to start a skill that I know would well & truly pay-off at every dance event I will ever go to! FOREVER! Well, until I'm too old to move & my knees give way hahaa!
Jive dancing!
Hoards of grey, seemingly generic looking, business-suit cladded men fumbling loudly through their fresh-smelling copies of the Evening Standard. Groups of expressionate & excited tourists bumping into everything as they attempt to squeeze their colourful rucksacks onto the already uncomfortably over-crowded train. The odd, tired student, ipod on, eyes closed, leaning against the train doors, or slumped into to their seat, seemingly unaware of which stop is theirs or not, sneaking in a much-needed nap after a day of lectures. All this pushed & shoved onto the rush hour Northern Line...

I embarked on my journey from my local; Camden Town Underground Station. I made sure I left with ample time ahead of me, knowing that the cruel mistress that is the London underground
planned a far from a pleasant journey for me. As I waited impatiently, tapping my toes on the platform, I imagined that I was a dame from one of those old, dreamy, black & white movies I admire so much; eagerly awaiting the steam train as is huffed & puffed its way towards me... White hanky on the ready! All of a sudden, I felt my thoughts drift to another scenario I preferred more than that; "Platform 9 & 3/4 ready for boarding the Hogwarts Express..." Those of you who are avid fans of Harry Potter like myself will know what I'm talking about. Wishing I was wheeling my cat or owl familiar, along with my trunk, my train of thought, if you pardon the pun, was derailed by a rather unexpected flash of your standard, London underground train, bodies blended as one in a dull array of mixed colour, faces melted & ghostly by the speed of the train. I glimpsed the board displaying the train times in its usual, dim yellow hue. Everything the same as always, but not my journey. This time, my destination was very different. This time my destination was the past!

The platform was pilling-up with the unsuspecting sardines, ready for the tin that will be their guide home. I took a deep breath & prepared my energy fields for their unwanted invasion of sweaty armpits, loud chews & bad breaths. I edged my way through, looking for an opening. Being a mere 5ft 1" & a bit, I don't expect to be seen by many. I'm usually stepped on or near suffocated, but this time I managed to use my size to my advantage & squeezed through a little opening, trotting onto the carriage with a little more space & surprisingly enough, a seat?! I made sure no elderly, children, or pregnant were waiting for a seat before I took my destined place. It was at this moment I realised random people staring at me. This displeased me greatly. I don't like eyes on me, especially on a train! Don't people realise that's really creepy? You will look like a stalker, or a purve, so really, it's never a good thing! I glimpsed a flash of my reflection against the blacked-out backdrop of the speeding train, checking myself for marks on my face, or a unicorn horn perhaps, judging the looks I was getting by one woman. I felt like Gary Sparrow from 'Goodnight Sweetheart' stepping out of the war-torn, Blitz-abused East End of London, back into the 1990s, forgetting to change back into his current attire... Ah, of course. It made more sense to me now, as I sat their in my faux-fur lined cape coat, tropical silk flowers adorning my styled & coiffed hair. I was in retro Tiki-mode for my 1950s 'Jive' & 'Rock N Roll' dance class. I guess it's far more acceptable these days & that you go unnoticed by wearing your trousers round your thighs with your child-size boxers on show than it is to dress from the past? Each to their own I suppose...

"Next Stop, Leicester Square. Change here for the Piccadilly Line." I awaited my cue like an starlet on-set. As soon as the automated fem-bot sounding voice muttered those words through the noisy conversations of hopeful promotions, dinner plans & female bitchiness about their unknowing, so-called friends, I leaped to my feet to escape. Checking my sheer, black, Eiffel Tower stockings for any runs or catches, my eyes worryingly searching for what clearly wasn't there, I made my way to the next platform & what would be my final stop; Covent Garden...

On leaving the station, a small group of random, young men gathered near, began to shout out what I suppose was meant to be compliments, followed by wolf-whistles & "whey-heys!!" I guess a lady dressing head-to-toe in black; a pencil skirt, peplum top & heeled pumps was a little different from the usual female attire of today; which leaves very little to the imagination! Either way, some men today really don't know how to address a lady. Not all of us want to be yelled at & bated like prized cattle, thank you very much! I ignored, but felt like Marilyn doing what seemed like her eternal walk at the end of the film 'Niagara', away from the group, still yelling... By this time I felt the butterflies that clearly live in my tummy start to a-flutter. They always make an appearance when it comes to things I'm excited & yet, so nervous about. Dance classes, me? It had been absolute years since I did anything like this & at 27, I wondered how well I'd remember what it was like. My days at Sylvia Young Drama School of Acting, Singing & Dance ended abruptly all those years ago. I loved everything, except the constant competition & rivalry between kids & the many mothers that seemed to be fulfilling their dreams through their pressured sons & daughters. Plus, I wanted to be an archaeologist, which I later became, so I allowed these practices to become a passion, rather than a career path.

My thoughts drifted from one memory to another, as I passed the beauty of 'The Royal Opera House', my favourite perfumery 'Penhaligon's' & the Lyceum Theatre... Before I knew it I found myself arriving at the venue: The old 'Savoy Tupp' public house in Savoy Street, just near the Strand. My walk towards the venue was steeped in a downwards-facing hill. I was greeted by a stunning, dimly-lit view of The River Thames & it's surrounded embankments ahead of me; the gentle lights glistening blurred colours onto the calm current of the river. London really is the best city in the world, I gushed... After work drinks were taking place & small bands of smokers were taking their drinks outside. You know that 'crowd sound' of mixed noises & voices you always seem to hear in busy places? Well, this place sounded no different. It can't always be that same people, so I jokingly wondered if it was a recording, like canned laughter, that was played everywhere I go! Well, it was far too cold for me to stand around musing, so I pushed open the heavy door & made my way upstairs to where I needed to be. Back in time to the jumpin' an a-jivin' days of the 1950s...

As I entered the quiet room, I realised  I was the first student to arrive! Luckily I was greeted by a delightful hug from one of the two wonderful instructors for the night; the vivacious life force & Tiki Queen that is Julie Miranda. I could see this lady & the gent that accompanied her were unfazed by the night ahead & when I saw these two in motion with their confidence & fluidity that can only be gained through years of passion & practice, my excitement grew. Just think, I thought to myself, in three weeks I'd be an achieved Jiver & ready to move onto more intermediate moves. I couldn't wait for the night ahead!

Thankfully I was blessed with a group full of wonderful & friendly guys & gals in my class, so my nerves eased more & more as the night progressed. As did my skills. I did worry about how comfortable I'd feel dancing with random gentleman, as I've only ever danced with either my daddy or my amazing boyfriend, but as my man's 6ft4" & has his martial arts class is on the same day, I found myself braving my rather prudent nature when it came to dancing with other men & accepting the unavoidable challenge ahead... We progressed from one set of moves to another, laughing, messing up & even becoming exceedingly good like Mr. Kipling's French Fancies! Before I knew it, the tiring lesson was over. I left the class that night buzzing, despite the fact that my silk flower adornment was battered & had clearly seen better days. Well, saying that, she was introduced to the real world of 'Jive' dancing; a change of scene from her usual journey on my head to work, on a date night with my man, or at sedentary social gatherings. I suppose this was a taster of what was to come? Not only did I meet some lovely fellow pupils, but I was on my way to learning a skill I'll have for life & that I'll know & love to dance from that night on...

                                                                  Lots of love,

                                                            Lover-Doll Presley