BackFinal thoughts

I planned to use this as the final workshop at Chippenham Festival 2010 but I don't think I did!

What do I teach at the final workshop of a weekend?  Especially a Bank Holiday weekend where people have been dancing since Friday evening and it's now Monday afternoon — you're exhausted, the band's exhausted, I'm exhausted.  Surely it's time to get down to basics, and ask why we put ourselves through this year after year, what lessons we can learn, what we want from a session like this.

The first point, which I may not have stressed earlier in the weekend, is to enjoy it.  That's why the band and I are here, and I hope that's why you're here.  I happen to believe that you enjoy dancing more if you're doing it as well as you can.  But some people get so tied in knots trying to do everything perfectly that the enjoyment disappears.  Indeed for some people the phrase “And here's a dance by Colin Hume…” is enough to do the trick!

So enjoy your dancing — but not at the expense of other people.  You may be a woman who enjoys dancing contras with lots of twirls and energy — and you may be leaving a trail of broken arms behind you, or at least sprained wrists and aching shoulders.  You may be a man who loves a good fast swing — regardless of who you're dancing with.  So my next point is that the enjoyment should come from playing for the team, not playing for yourself.  You're dancing with a partner and with other couples in the set.  You need to be aware of other people — what they want to do; what they're not able to do.  If someone looks nervous, don't swing them round five times at top speed and throw them off into the stratosphere — be gentle with them and leave them facing in the right direction.  If someone looks elderly or infirm, don't assume they'll be able to do a slipped circle — by all means try it, but be ready to drop back to a walk as soon as you realise they're not happy.  If they're having problems with the figures, try to help them if you can, but without making them feel stupid or unwanted.  If you can help your partner and the other members of the set enjoy the dance, you just might find you're enjoying it yourself.

The second point is dealing with exhaustion.  I know some of us feel we've bought a season ticket and we're going to go to everything, but you can end up not enjoying things as much as you would if you exercised a bit of restraint.  It's OK to sit out a dance occasionally and not feel ashamed — it's even OK to drop a complete session and go off and have a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  If you find you're making so many mistakes that it's affecting your enjoyment and that of the people around you, maybe your body's trying to tell you something.

And my final point is: Dance well.  What does that mean?  It doesn't mean you're strutting your stuff and trying to impress everybody with what a great dancer you are.  It means fitting the dance to the music, generally going in the right direction, looking at people and dancing with them rather than round them.  As I've said before, when I was working as part of GUSTO and trying to answer the question “What makes a good dancer?”, the best phrase we came up with was “A pleasure to dance with”.  Keep that at the forefront of your mind, and I think the other points will follow automatically.

So this is the final mix.  Some dances to make you think a little, because I find that adds to my enjoyment, some dances that flow beautifully from one move to the next, some which need to be danced with a bit of life and energy, interspersed with some where you can just have the pleasure of moving in time to a beautiful tune, and some which are just fun to do.