Yesterday, I spent the day at Preston Market – I set up a stall with cakes, put on my Polish dancing costume and met a whole range of people who kindly shared with me their stories and memories around dance. I encountered many people who remembered dancing at Blackpool Ballroom and the Winter Gardens – stories of ladies being asked to dance the Quickstep or the Waltz. One woman told me she was too shy to wait to be asked so spent a lot of the time hiding in the cloakroom. Various stories of Northern Soul at Wigan Casino and 53 Degrees in Preston were also told (& a few moves demonstrated), as well as Zumba classes, 80’s discos and African dancing. I got a few lines of singing from My Fair Lady alongside some half-remembered tap moves and the straight back, straight faced posture of the Irish jig (but a smile in the eyes of course). It seemed my costume encouraged memories of how other dancers looked and how they wore their hair – recalling Morris Dancing in particular. My waistcoat which my mother made by sewing on every sequin by hand became a talking point and echoed Eastern European traditions – a Bulgarian woman finding particular similarities and memories of home.
At first, some people thought that they had no connection to dance, but then eventually remembered a whole tradition from their youth. They were open to sharing their stories and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to recall their past. Many conversations between different people at my stall developed, and others continued on chairs behind me – finding common ground, sharing experiences.
On Monday, I am attending a tea dance in Preston and look forward to seeing some dance in action (& perhaps having a try…!)