The Dance Collector: Wishing Well

I have started working with the Over 55’s Activity & Luncheon Group with the Wishing Well Project in Crewe – everyone was so welcoming, and we shared stories & memories about dancing.

Violet caught my eye as soon as I’d introduced myself – I explained that I was here to collect dance moves and stories around dance, and the room turned to Violet as the one from the group who would get up and demonstrate.  I later learn that she’s 91 – I can’t believe it, she looks ready to dance at a moment’s notice.  She tells me & the room that her favourite dance – the one she’s best at is the seductive slow foxtrot, and we all believe it.  She shows me a hand-jive – we’re all going to have a go next week.

Ruth has known Violet for 40 years, they used to dance the jive together. – Violet’s husband used to walk Ruth home to make sure she got back safely, a proper gentleman.  These days, Ruth still dances, at home now around her sofa, to Abba or Pavarotti Nessun Dorma and it makes the hairs on her arms stand up.  You can hear the music down the street but the house next door is empty so there are no neighbours to disturb.  We all agree that it’s a great thing to do, we’re all going to do it as soon as we get home.

Ruth’s sister Mary tells me about how they used liquorice torpedoes to stain their lips red, and how they both met their husbands at The Studio in Crewe, how the men used to tell them ghost stories, how the lights would dim and they’d have a smooch, it was dead romantic, and how, if they were lucky, they would carry on dancing after 11pm in the Town Hall with the big bands and the live singers – but only if they could.  Ruth would sometimes go and then stay at her friend’s house who lived over the road, but Maggie wasn’t so lucky – she’s an only child, her parents were strict, she was always home before 11pm.

I met Margaret and Margaret, sat next to each other, one originally from Scotland, who met her husband ballroom dancing in Glasgow – married for 51 years and the other who didn’t like dancing at all, but preferred reading. – Luckily for her, her husband couldn’t dance.  Elsie met her husband disco dancing in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, he was in the army and stationed there.  It was 1941 and they married within 12 months.  Etty’s husband was a really good dancer, but she had 2 left feet.  Working in Blackpool in a shop, Etty remembers the bread man coming in and shortening her name from Ethel to Etty, she remembers the dog she had to give away as she could no longer look after it, she remembers her son and shows me a photo of him, she remembers not being able to dance.

Laura & Eric sit together opposite me, a couple together for 69 years.  We eat our dinner together as they tell me about their holiday to Blackpool next week.  Laura doesn’t eat much, she has a sweet tooth and she’s more interested in dessert.

Roland recognizes the Polish waistcoat I’m wearing – it reminds him of Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey where dancing involved smashing plates.  Mandy was born in Cyprus and doesn’t remember it well, but she remembers being in England and watching Irish Dancing with fascination and swaying along to the beats of Northern Soul….

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