Saturday, 14 December 2019

Dancing for joy

Dancing for joy

LINDY wanted to cry buckets of tears as she ran into the Hammersmith Palais dance hall.

Of all the nights for the number 65 bus to Kew Bridge to be late, she had missed her connection to the most important event in her life. Even Dad’s big umbrella hadn’t kept her completely dry.

In hindsight she should have saved enough money from her last week’s wages for a taxi but the new silver dancing shoes won over a posh motor ride.

When she got into the dressing room she could redo her hair and use a hairdryer on any wet spots on her dress.

She went over to a table draped with a glittering gold cloth. A poster on an easel read:

“Palais Ballroom amateur
competition — Friday, August 13 1965 8pm.”

A man, elegant in his evening suit, smiled at her.

“Can I help you, miss?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Lindy. “Has my partner, Eric Tanner, collected our entry number yet?”

The man flicked through a box of envelopes on the table.

“No, miss, and you don’t have much time — the judges are very strict about punctuality. They won’t allow you to dance if you’re late.”

Where was Eric? He had promised to get here early.

“Oh dear, this is our first big competition,” said Lindy.

“You go and get ready. I’ll tell your beau when he collects his number,” replied the man.

“Thanks ever so, and I’ll be back here in 20 minutes.”

She tucked Dad’s umbrella under one arm and carried her vanity case in the other and followed the arrows to the ladies’ dressing room.

Bedlam rushed at her when she opened the door. She didn’t see the suitcase on the floor and tripped into a group of girls jostling to touch up their make-up in front of a mirror.

“Sorry, could I squeeze pass to that space in the corner?” asked Lindy.

“Has anyone got a hairdryer I can borrow?” The voice seemed to come from under a table piled with coats.

Lindy stooped and found a girl with her hair in rollers banging a lifeless dryer on the floor.

“You can borrow mine, once I open my case,” she said, adding: “Aren’t you Wendy from Davinia’s Dancing School? Eric and I are in her advanced gold medal class.”

“Yes,” asnwered the girl. “What a crush. What number are you?”

“Sixty-five, we’re the last entrants. Do you want a hand to get out from there?”

“Please. Have the first numbers gone yet?”

“Yes.”

Lindy pulled a hand from among pink frothy net. Ten less bodies made space for her vanity case. She plugged her hairdryer into a socket and handed it over.

“I’ll use it after you.”

Adding her coat to the pile, Lindy inspected her skirt, which by a miracle had escaped getting wet. Her feet and ankles, however, were dotted with puddle splashes. She rummaged in her case and found a hand towel and a bottle of water that she always packed and wetted the corner.

Wendy handed back her dryer.

“Here, dry your stockings.”

‘Thanks. How are you doing? I’m just about ready.”

Lindy pushed a flyaway strand back into her silver bow and smoothed her dark hair down and teased the ends up.

Sliding her feet into her dance shoes, she twirled in front of the long mirror. The turquoise tulle glistened with a thousand silver sequins and the silk bodice and sleeves shimmered as she moved.

“Wow, Lindy, you look fab. How much did that dress set you back?” gushed Wendy.

“Only the cost of the pattern, material and sequins,” she replied. “My mum did the rest — she’s a whizz-lady on a sewing machine.”

“Lucky you. Does she do it for outsiders?”

“Sometimes. I could ask her if you like?”

“Please, I had to hire my dress. I couldn’t afford to buy one.”

“What number are you?

“Sixty-three, like you in the last dance session. Shall we go?”

Lindy held out her hand to Wendy and said: “Cross our little fingers for luck?”

“To us,” they said in unison.

Lindy found Eric waiting.

“Is this Miss Lindy Morgan, the shy girl from school I used to fight my way to in the Paul Jones to get a dance with?”

Lindy dipped a curtsy and said: “The same girl you’ve been dancing with ever since. I could say the same to you.

“I must admit I was a bit worried about that wizened little tailor, Mr Stein, but he has done you proud, Eric. You’re definitely my tall, dark and handsome partner.”

“It’s time to assemble. Are you okay?”

Lindy nodded, but her legs were like jelly.

Ten couples waited behind a screen. On the other side the music ended and a crescendo of applause filled the hall.

Eric squeezed her hand. “It’s just another dance routine, forget the audience, just follow me and let the music fill you.”

“If you say so, just don’t trip me up.”

The screen moved and the dancers before them ran forward. Eric led Lindy out and her fear melted away into a world of spotlights as he whirled her into a waltz to the music of Moon River.

She was as one with Eric as he led her through the sweeping turns, swaying and dipping to the rhythm until applause broke her dream.

A blast of trumpets started playing When the Saints Go Marching In and Eric whirled her into the fast side stepping and pivot turns of the quickstep.

Lindy lost all her inhibitions and matched his fast moving strides and into a V-Six across the floor, enjoying every moment.

When the music stopped, Eric hugged her.

“Lindy, you’re magnificent. You really are a natural,” he said.

Sheer delight brought tears to her eyes and she wanted to kiss him.

“I’m only good because of you. We’re naturals together.”

She looked across to the three judges busily writing.

“It’s all over. We just have to wait for the results.”

In the wings excitement and anticipation hung in the air; then a drum roll sounded. Lindy clasped Eric’s hand.

The announcer’s words came clearly: “Ladies and gentlemen, the judges’ final three contestants to be recalled for the tango...” the pause was nerve-racking, “...numbers 3, 40 and 65.”

They were through to the final choice! All the years of practising, taking exams.... Eric pulled her on to the dance floor to the acknowledgement of the audience.

Sixty-five had truly been their lucky number tonight — they were not out of the contest, yet.

• Julie Roberts’s latest book,
Dangerous Masquerade, is published by Accent Press and is available on Amazon.

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