On Tuesday night, after teaching my last class, I went out into the rain, clutching my umbrella and dance shoes, to the Chandelier Room of The Red Lion, for my first Bachata class. A few weeks ago I’d never heard of Bachata – the dance form from the Dominican Republic. Then Jose, my Flamenco teacher, announced he was teaching a new class, and I was determined to go, even though I couldn’t find a willing man to come with me – supposedly one of the requirements of attending.
Jose began by teaching us the basic steps that seemed very simple, and easy with the music, after the intricate precision of Flamenco. Then it was time to dance with a partner. All the women danced with each man in rotation, a hand-hold with the man’s thumb to the woman’s palm, knees flexed and dovetailed – such intimacy.
I loved every moment of it, so much that I must have been smiling like the Cheshire Cat by the end. It was funny, and joyful – dancing with so many partners, all those well-meaning knees, clumsy feet, eyes looking fixedly at the floor – the men who grip and push, and those who give no energy at all. Then dancing with Jose was another world entirely – like dancing with my partner Tim, there was that glorious moment of connection, of flow, that always takes me by surprise.
When I first moved to Wirksworth, over thirty years ago, there was an ironmongers run by a woman who seemed to me to be very old. She was also rather large and slow-moving. But I once got talking to her when I went in to buy a saucepan. 'Oh I love dancing,' she said, her face lighting up. 'I go dancing in Alfreton on a Monday, Belper on a Tuesday, Derby on a Wednesday'…and so on through the week, a different venue every night, including the weekend.
I aspire to be like her, dancing every day, into old age. So far, as well as my Pilates classes, I have ballet, Flamenco, dance improvisation, and now Bachata. To dance is to speak another language – a wordless language that feels, to me, essential as breathing.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.