Same sex dancing is our main source of social life and meeting other people nationally and internationally
Chris: I started dancing around 1995 – I was recently out. I went to Gays the Word to meet people and friends there suggested dancing. I tried it, never having done any before and loved it. I found it really difficult at first, like two left feet, but then got hooked, as lots of people do.
Tina: I first went dancing after I met Chris (my partner) on holiday in 2000.
Chris: Waltzing with Hilda is all women, once a month on a Saturday. We probably dance twice a month. You may go dancing with a life partner, but it would be rare to stick together. You nearly always dance with lots of other people. I enjoy dancing in different dances with different people. If a jive comes on, there will be certain people I will look for, and others for a West Coast Swing or a tango.
Tina: My favourite dance? Well I do like to jive and there are some dances where one of us mainly leads and some, where that person follows. I lead Chris in a Jive and she leads me in a Cha Cha or a tango. We mix and match. Chris can lead or follow with a quickstep.
Chris: There’s a few dances I can lead in, but not very well. Tina leads mainly in Ballroom and I lead Latin.
Tina: And when we go to the mixed sessions we get to lead guys. I learnt all the Ballroom dances as a leader.
Chris: It’s worth not limiting yourself to only leading or only following. I originally started following then I started years later, to learn to lead in some of the Latin, but I’m never going to lead Tango.
Tina: I lead the Tango.
Chris: And I’m never going to lead the West Coast Swing either.
Tina: One of the greatest benefits of belonging to both of these dance clubs is meeting other lesbians, as well as the exercise.
Chris: I got a Fitbit for Christmas and I can see the part of the evening when I’ve done line dancing, quickstep or jive and my intensity level has gone very high. I can actually measure the exercise.
Chris: Belonging to an LGBT club, you’re mixing with people you know. We’ve only been to one straight dancing group here in Enfield, they get a bit of a shock when we go. They are expecting a man and a woman appears. Straight classes usually don’t cater for people dancing in same sex couples and the way dance classes work, all the way around the country is that you have all the leaders facing all the followers and then you move along the line. So, it becomes a bit of a surprise to some people when they’re expecting a man to arrive and they get a woman. Most women don’t mind dancing with other women, there’s a history of it in war time. It’s much, much harder for men to go to a straight class and for one of them to take the woman’s role. Straight men don’t really expect to dance with other men. So, having a same sex group is better for those wanting to dance same sex, and for us it’s very much a social thing – it’s our main source of social life and meeting other people.
Tina: The age range at Waltzing with Hilda has got older since we’ve been going.
Chris: There are people there who have been going for over twenty years. Some people have dropped off the end and then younger people come, so the ages range from thirties to over seventy. People very quickly learn that just because someone comes and asks you to dance and then to dance again, doesn’t mean that they’re trying to pursue you, it just means that they’ve had a dance and it worked well and let’s have another one. You go back to the ones you feel comfortable dancing with.
Tina: For anyone over 50, thinking about dancing, just do it.
Chris: Definitely, we met someone recently at Opening Doors and we encouraged her. She’s been to Pink Jukebox and Waltzing with Hilda and she’s going for lessons. It’s very common for people to come when they are isolated, either because a relationship has ended or they’ve moved from another part of the country. I could happily walk into any LGBT dancing group in the country, and go up to someone and say ‘could you lead me in a Waltz?’ The main French LGBTH dancing group in Paris have a week away in Limoges. It’s interesting they put the H in for hetero, but the focus is LGBT and the lessons are all Leader and Follower, they don’t talk about men and women. They are very welcoming and come over to London to dance with us at the Rivoli and the Pink Jukebox. Lots of people are going from London to the Gay Games to dance and they’ll be put up by the French dancers.
All the dancing groups start with a lesson. You make contact with all the people you dance with in the lesson. Already, you’ve danced with fifteen people, so there is the possibility that you could go back or they might ask you later in the social dancing.
Tina: After the lesson, the seasoned dancers have seen who the beginners are and will make a point of asking them for a dance, particularly if it’s the one they’ve been learning in the lesson.
Chris: There’s an etiquette that you don’t say no the first time. I believe that if somebody asks you for a dance, there’s only two reasons for saying no. One is you can’t do it and the other is you’re over-tired or got a bad leg. You don’t have to say ‘yes’ every time but never just say ‘no’ to someone the first time they ask you to dance. If people have been dancing a lot and they’re too tired, that’s fine. You could say “I’m sorry I can’t lead you in a waltz, but later on I’ll lead you in a Cha-cha.”
Pink Jukebox is mixed LGBT twice a month on Sunday afternoons.
Waltzing with Hilda is all women, once a month on a Saturday.
See also: https://www.facebook.com/groups/samesexdanceuk/about/
To find our other Out & Active Champions, click on their names.
Viv from BLAGSS
Christopher from Out To Swim
Nigel from Goslings London Badminton Club
Sarah from London Otters Rowing Club
Nash from London Royals Hockey
Tammy from London Royals Hockey
Peter from London Otters Rowing Club
Chris and Tina from Waltzing with Hilda and Pink Jukebox
Joanie from Hackney Women’s Football Club and The Federation of Gay Games
Ann from Gay Gooners
Sarah from Out To Swim
Champion interviews by Christopher Preston
Design for Out & Active by Laura Salisbury
Out & Active is kindly
supported by London Sport