Strictly Ballroom: Tales from the Dance Floor
At the age of 76, Diana Melly took up ballroom dancing.
She was suffering from bereavement, having recently lost her husband George to dementia, and was told that dancing might help. It has done much more than that, opening up a whole new chapter in her life.
In this disarmingly funny and moving book, Melly takes us on a whirlwind tour of modern 'Ballroom': from wardrobe mishaps and tea dance etiquette to the perils of Argentine tango and how to stay upright in rough seas on the QE2. We meet her new circle of friends, including her dance teacher, Dino - 'I'll teach you, darling; it would be a pleasure.'
Strictly Ballroom is a memoir unstinting in its honesty and glowing with humour and spirit. It will have you reaching for your dancing shoes...
due to my age, as having some authority. Also, compared to fellow workers, I sound posh; my manager once told me I sound like Penelope Keith in The Good Life. These dubious attributes mean I am given the task of asking the young woman to find something to cover up some bits of her. It’s a problem. She is perfectly willing to cover up but what with? As it’s a warm day she has come without a coat and I don’t want to lend her my ragged jumper and expose my flimsy top. Luckily it’s a biometrics day.
the dominant male says, “I’ll have the blonde, you can have the other one.” Sometimes after a tea dance we collect my dogs from home and go for a walk in the park. We discuss, rather disrespectfully, the various men who’ve been in our lives. Gill’s last boyfriend used to dress up in her underwear. Gill is tiny; the boyfriend was six foot with a big stomach. Having swapped a few juicy tales, we move on to our jobs. Gill works as a volunteer for a children’s charity. I work in the visitors’ centre
pewter award mugs; but will there be an en suite? Yes! There is! My room is small but spotless; there are three hangers in the wardrobe, a TV and a bedside light. The latter doesn’t seem to work but after dancing till ten that is hardly going to matter. For some reason Raymond wants to go for a paddle, but I need lunch. Margate has fish and chips or pizza to offer. We settle for the usual fish and chips which I haven’t had so often since they were wrapped in the Sunday Dispatch. Raymond goes
and he leads me through barridas, ganchos and ochos. One or two women have asked Ray if he will teach them the Argentine and on the way home he says he can feel his ego swelling and will I please tell him if he’s getting too big for his boots. Well, in 45 years I never had much success in cutting George down to size, I’m pleased to have a go at such an enjoyable task. Chapter 7 I had known for some time that I had to find a new dance teacher. Raymond had become so popular as a partner and a
lecture, we went line dancing. I used to go line dancing before I got serious and took up ballroom, mostly because I love country and western. I remembered how important it is to position yourself on the floor. You usually turn to face one of the four walls, so it’s no good being at the front or back. You need an expert in front of you, behind you and on either side of you. What I hadn’t learnt in Shepherd’s Bush Village Hall was how to stay upright when the QE2 began to battle with the Atlantic.