The Twist

I entered the Twist competition by chance.

Dancing is in my family. My mom was an instructor and my dad was her ballroom partner. His younger brother, my uncle, and his wife were serious ballroom competitors. Both my daughters are good movers and the elder one was a belly dancer for a while. My sister and I once cleared the floor at the West End Ballroom in Birmingham at a rock ‘n’ roll dance event when the reigning champions didn’t show up that week. Now that is an experience, having all the other dancers, hundreds of ’em, clear a space in the middle of the dance floor, form a circle, watch and clap as you perform your best moves.

Back in the 60s my best friend’s father was a librarian. One of his staff members was a keen dancer and wanted to go to this particular event. In those days she needed a male partner to enter competitions. He knew I was a good dancer and asked if I’d be her partner for the evening.

By one of those odd coincidences that my family has come to take for granted, the venue was the same one where a few years later I would become a bouncer for a night, as I have written about previously.

I didn’t know that it was a competition until I rocked up to the venue carrying my dancing shoes in a paper bag and met her for the first and only time. We shook hands. There were no romantic undertones, she was not inclined that way. It wasn’t Strictly Ballroom; it was strictly business.

It was a two-rounds comp added as a special feature to a larger dance with a live band. In the first round early in the evening, the judges walked round the floor selecting 20 of the best couples to go into the final later in the evening.

The final was a knock-out round. This time the judges walked round tapping people on the shoulder to drop out until there were only two couples left who then battled it out through an entire number.

Usually for a comp you have a regular partner. If not, you should at least practice together a few times and rehearse some set-piece moves, but we had to wing it on the night.

She was good. Very good. We smashed it.

I vaguely recall she kept the trophy and I took the money; it was only a few quid, but handy. I never saw her again and can’t remember her name, but for an hour or so, we flew.

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