Dancing with the 'StasIt’s a few minutes to 6pm on a Thursday night, a motley group are making their way along the Terrace to the St Andrew’s Church Hall. Inside, there are already a dozen or so people in casual attire. These are the "Advanced Class" who came at 5pm. Many of them stay on after their class to help and coach the "Beginners" who are arriving for their session with teacher Michael Harris. The beginners don’t come too early, because watching the advanced practise is very discouraging.

This is Thursday night dancing.

Every 8 weeks a new beginners class commences. Last night was the second session of the latest term, and already we’re old hands at the Clap Dance and foxtrot. We’re new hands at Rock ‘n Roll. Next week, God knows what fresh humilations await.

Old hands have expressed delight that this term’s intake is almost equal numbers of men & women. This means the more advanced women don’t have to dance as men so much. Men never have to dance as women.

The class begins with a simple warmup in the form of the "Clap Dance". This is because after every few steps, a lusty clap is required, before tippy-tapping back in towards your partner to bump hips. On the off chance you manage to connect without dislocating your partner’s hips, you get an encouraging comment from Michael. Me? After learning the next stage of the tippy-tapping, which involves a spin and a clap, I found myself about 10 metres away from my partner & having to sprint back in from across the room to attempt my "bump".

Luckily the foxtrot is easier. So far. In fact, I’ve learned foxtrot before and so have been complimented on my "leading" skills. That’s about the extent of my remembrance of earlier lessons, I expect the rest of the class to catch up fast.

In all dances, every so often Michael instructs us to "change partners", so everyone gets to dance with everyone. It’s a good idea, the more experienced pass on tips, and it’s great for social confidence. You may be faced with a lady of advanced years, or a teenager; a hottie, or a chick that looks suspiciously like David Farrar wearing a wig; a lithe mover, or a clumsy dumpling.

Men, you worry that your partner might think you’re staring at her cleavage, when all you’re doing is keeping your head down while counting the beat and trying not to tread on her toes. And then try as you might, once the notion has entered your head you can’t stop staring at her cleavage. Women ARE probably thinking that you’re staring at her cleavage & are worried that you’ll tread on their toes. Which you will.

We learned half of Rock ‘n Roll last night. We learned the "Rock". Michael demonstrated the steps, then we attempted them to a piece of music far too fast for me to keep up with. I truly hope we don’t have to try the "Roll" before we’re advanced dancers. Once again, my "rock" took me metres further back than is advised, making the lady’s "turn" somewhat challenging. A real dancer jumped in & whispered me the very solid advice "Take smaller steps!". Such a simple & effective idea.

One of the advanced dancers (he wears a kilt, and I’m going to go out on a limb & speculate that he may be of Hebridean descent) regarded my "rock" and said "I used to be like that." Honestly, I should have replied that "That was very reassuring". I think what blurted out was "You’re fucking shitting me, right?"

At the end of 8 weeks, we will take an examination for the chance to be awarded a medal. Medal winning dancers in 8 hours!

The class is over before you know it. I don’t stay to watch the intermediates, but some do. After every session, you’ve learned a few new steps, watched some real guns in action, and cradled a few hotties & not so hotties in your arms. You’ve probably looked equally gormless to both. Oh, and you’re exhausted.

Michael is a teacher who manages to balance instruction with entertainment perfectly. Apparently, there are also classes held somewhere in Tawa each week. Some attend both.