Friday 29 April 2016

Task 7: Learn to dance the lindy hop with Andrew and put video clip on You Tube

Be honest, this is the task you've secretly been waiting for isn't it. The sight of Andrew and me gazing despairingly into one another's eyes whilst elbowing each other in the solar plexus and crushing one another's toes. Well here it is at last. Before I give you the magic link, let's just do the usual scene-setting....

If your memory is sharp as sharp you'll recall that the decision to put Task 7 on the sixtyat60 list dates back to Andrew's godson Tom's wedding last May when Andrew and I dad/mum-danced our way through the evening's festivities, after which I thought 'Things have got to change'. And the choice of the lindy hop was thanks to lovely Liz, who unlike the majority of guests at my birthday lunch didn't write the dreaded words 'Argentine tango' on the back of her name place (we owe you big time Liz).  

After the big dance reveal on my birthday, Task 7 was kept in dry dock for 6 months whilst I focused attention on other energetic challenges such as the 10k run. Then come November, just as the decks were all clear for some dancing action, Andrew tore his hamstring during a tennis match (hmm....could this have been an elaborate avoidance strategy?), and so lindy hop classes had to be put on hold again.  Finally in February, Andrew was given the all-clear by the physio. No more excuses Hunots - dust down those dancing shoes!

The first challenge was how and where to source a patient, talented and kind-hearted lindy hop instructor.  Cristina instantly came to my rescue. Cristina is a fabulous young dancer in the Brighton area (her company the Hiccup Project is doing great things) as well as being the daughter of my friend Kara, and is a mine of information about the great and good in the dance world. 'Matthew Blacklock at Dancefloor Activist would be perfect' she said. We looked no further. A flurry of emails later, Andrew and I were signed up for 6 weekly classes with Matt (see photos below) at a dance studio in the Brighton Youth Centre. 

The next challenge was for Andrew and me to banish our inhibitions and get our bodies and minds synch.....with Andrew leading. Now that's a massive ask. And in truth one of us (no names mentioned) found the whole process especially tricky.  However a breakthrough occurred in Week 4. 'I've just realised' Andrew announced, 'it's much easier if I relax.' Matt was elated. 'Andrew, you've just experienced a paradigm shift' he said.   

Matt proved to be everything we had hoped for. He praised, teased, cajoled, joked, empathised, supported and pushed us gently but firmly towards our goal.  We learnt turns, changing places and swivelling - and we tried very hard to 'pulse'. We danced to glorious jazz-based music (I shall never again listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing Once Too Often without thinking of our lindy hop lessons) and bit by bit Matt taught us a very simple and understated routine, using a beautiful Leonard Cohen song called 'Dance until the end of love', sung by the sultry-voiced Madeleine Peyroux. 

The plan was for us to dress vintage on Lindy Hop Day, if nothing else to draw the viewer's eye away from our dodgy dance moves. Matt signposted us to Gladrags Costumes in Moulescoomb, an absolute goldmine of vintage clothing and costumes for hire at low cost to local community projects. Andrew and I spent an hour or so there last week trying on outfits. Andrew was extraordinarily well behaved - no grumbling, yawning or threatened walkout. Very curious. Was he on Valium?

Lindy Hop Day arrived and the weather was quite stunning, if a trifle parky. Andrew and I eased ourselves into our very snug and unforgiving vintage finery and had a quick snap taken in the garden before heading down to Brighton for the final lesson, dress rehearsal and photoshoot with Matt. I was feeling jittery and so was Andrew. Would we forget our steps? Would Andrew's trousers split? Would my non-elasticated St Michael's petticoat fall down around my ankles? 

Matt warmed us up with a bit of Charleston (not a pretty sight) and then started filming our lindy hop routine. We did a series of clips at the Youth Centre against the backdrop of some edgy graffiti....

For the second set of clips, Matt took us down to the beautiful birdcage bandstand on Brighton seafront, where the sea was glimmering and shimmering in the sunshine and the West Pier was looking as poignantly iconic as ever. The wind swirled around the bandstand like crazy, our music didn't work properly and my hair took on a life of its own, but in such a magnificent setting, who cares!

Matt did an eye catching photo for my blog and we took the all important selfie. Then Andrew and I headed to the nearest pub for a small celebratory glass of prosecco.   


Later on at home I took a deep breath and looked through the clips. I say 'take a deep breath' because I always find it very painful to look at videos of myself - and of course these ones were no exception. I thought Andrew looked great (rather debonair if I may say so) and so did the scenery. But there I was, flat-footed, round-shouldered, stiff-necked, wind-swept and, oh dear, definitely lacking pulse. 'Stately as a galleon....' by Joyce Grenfell echoed in my ears.  But Lucy Hunot, video editor extraordinaire, bravely took charge of compiling the best bits of the video clips to put on YouTube, in order to comply fully with the demands of Task 7, and Andrew and I agree that she's done a grand job of making a tiny silk purse out of the footage. 

So with no further ado, I'm delighted to announce that you can now access the video clip (remember it's short and very understated!!) on YouTube using the following link:

So that's one especially tricky task finally in the can, and as such, requires an Oscar-like list of thank yous. Firstly a big thank you to Cristina for recommending Matt to us, thus saving us from the clutches of an instructor who might have run away screaming after the first class. Our sincere thanks, too, to Vania at Gladrags Costumes for helping us to find outfits that fitted the bill perfectly (as long as we held our stomachs in).  A huge pat on the back to Lucy for an amazing editing service, especially given the challenging material. And a massive thumbs up to Andrew, who has been an absolute revelation during the last 6 weeks - as he openly admitted, this task was probably his biggest challenge ever, but he stuck to his guns, never once complained (like I say, very curious) and learnt to do some nifty footwork. 

One final and absolutely vital thank you  - and that's to Matt from both Andrew and me for being the best dance instructor EVER!! Poor Matt can't escape me yet, as I'm going to be attending one of his Zumba classes in a couple of weeks' time with my friend Kara (thereby ticking off another task).  

Oh and did the task go well enough for Andrew and me to carry on and learn the Argentine tango, as indicated in the sixtyat60 list? What do you think Andrew?  That's strange, he was here a moment ago.....

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Shooting Star Chase children's hospice care in memory of a special little girl called Thea Redford. 

For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at

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