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The Evening Class;Mind and Body

Ballroom dancing

Several ladies change into golden dancing shoes; one gentleman dons his black patent leathers, others preen slightly. They are getting ready for the slow foxtrot.

This is midway through a 12-week ballroom dancing course, so in theory everyone knows the steps by now.

Today's challenge, presented by the eminently dapper Dennis Atkins, is for pairs to start at different corners of the ballroom (also known as the local school hall) and glide across it without bumping into any of the others. It sounds far easier than it is - imagine trying to remember all those finicky steps while couples come at you from all directions. The inevitable occurs, but at least there is plenty of giggling and apology - it's not like this on Come Dancing.

"It is all about muscle memory," says Dennis, adding that "the hardest steps are simply walking through the door." His group (seven men, nine ladies) would probably disagree.

For some, immense concentration is needed as they try to force less-than-compliant bodies into graceful shapes, with a few improvised skips to get into place. Showing infinite patience, Dennis and Betty Chetham (his dancing partner), demonstrate over and over again what to do. "Some have natural rhythm, others find it difficult to move to music," Betty observes, adding: "It's often worse for gentlemen."

The class takes a well-earned break, then it is on with the rumba and that most seductive of all dances, the tango.

It is almost poetry in motion, apart from a few pairs whose tripping of the light fantastic is scuppered by the need for constant checks on what they should be doing.

"Track your man... that's what you ladies must do," commands Dennis. "Trap your man?" queries one puzzled dancer.

For the finale, the pace slows for a gentle foxtrot, by which time everyone is far more relaxed and fluent, elegantly weaving in and out with no collisions.

This class took place at Lytham St Annes High School, Lytham, Lancs. Contact Blackpool and the Fylde College, tel: 01253 352352 ext 5025

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