Step, step, cha cha cha, step, step, cha, cha, cha. Bear with; just practising my ballroom – for I have been dancing with lesbians. I didn’t mean to – it was an accident. H, who has a Gold Medal in Rumba (from the Gay Olympics in Vancouver) invited me along to see his ‘show dance’ at the Same Sex Ball. ‘Oh, I don’t mind if I do’, says I, thinking I’d be doing a Darcy Bussell on a panel or at least be part of an hysterical audience. But no, I was expected to partake of the quick-step, the Vietnamese Waltz et al. Heaven help the lesbians thought I, glad that I had sensible shoes on and trousers so that I wouldn’t show my knickers when I got thrown between someone’s legs. My first foray under the glitter ball was a fast and furious line dance that involved some quite complex leg wiggling. After that, I was approached by a very stern lady in a three-piece with Brillo Pad hair who kept shouting at me that I was taking too many steps. Just as I was about to punch her, I was rescued by a vertically-challenged Asian lady in an off-the-shoulder spangly confection who tried her best to guide me around the floor but as I was going backwards and she couldn’t see over my shoulder, we kept barging into the other dancers and scuffing up their brogues. After just one circuit of the sprung floor, Madame Butterfly hastily dropped me back at our table and ran off to do an American Smooth with a woman with big boobs. H then came on and did his famous rumba with a man with a shiny head. Dressed in tight black frilly shirts, they strutted around the floor, pouting, squinting and flapping their arms every which way. Oh how the lesbians whooped. Following this, I was approached by an exceptionally tall ‘lady’ who I suspect, by her splayed legs and stoop might have once worked on a building site. In her capable arms and lulled by her throaty whisper, I mastered the cha cha cha. With the spirit of Strictly coursing through my body, I decided to have a stab at Zumba the following week and am proud to say I can now perform a rudimentary Gangnam Style gallop.
Archive for the ‘dance’ Category
A few weeks ago, at about 4am, something landed on my head. It was lighter than a hamster but heavier than a sequin. Still half asleep, I batted if off and returned to my dream where I was making chelsea buns with Kevin Costner in the celebrity version of the Great British Bake Off. In the morning, I found a small green stick on my pillow that on closer inspection, looked suspiciously like the LEG OF AN INSECT. Ages after, I was rummaging in my pant drawer and found a ruddy great cricket nestled in among the gussets and yes, it was one leg down. All of which posed the question, don’t insects who’ve sustained massive injuries such as loss of limbs bleed to death? Also, what was sustaining the cricket in my pant drawer? Later that week, I was in France at a drama workshop, killing time before the cheese market opened. There were 15 Sarah Bernhardt wanna be’s and a couple of Maurice Chevalier’s but there’d been a mix up with the rooms which meant the philosophy debating society had taken the big room and we were relegated to a walk-in wardrobe. Having endured a near-death experience in an Icelandic sweat lodge, my present predicament, being sandwiched between a rotund individual called Florence, an industrial sized filing cabinet and a sloping ceiling all felt perfectly fine. Even when we were invited to do something spontaneous with a feather boa and a cricket bat, I somehow managed to be creative without taking anyone’s eye out. However, after an hour or so of some very energetic improvisation, the lack of air had catapulted some of us into giddy hysteria. Sebastien, a slip of a lad with a pigeon chest and Chinese slippers, started singing ‘Fly me to the Moon’ at the top of his voice and when we played blink murder, my screams and the ensuing kerfuffle almost caused a stacked chair tsunami, at which point the head of the philosophy debating society burst in, complaining that they weren’t able to hear themselves think. Talking about disturbances, I went to see the very French film, Rust and Bone at the cinema the other night and during some post-coital murmurings between a woman who’d had her legs bitten off by a killer whale and a man who punched gypsies for a living, a lady in the row in front trumped loudly. Well that makes a refreshing change.
On the final day of my Icelandic sojourn, the girls suggested we go to a sweat lodge. Now this is not a particularly Icelandic pursuit but in the spirit of doing everything once, apart from incest and drinking your own wee, I agreed to take part. The sweat lodge was located in the back garden of a ramshackle bungalow, down a cinder path just off highway number 1 on the outskirts of Reykjavik. On arrival, we were greeted by two old queens and a herd of rabbits (I know this isn’t the correct collective noun but they were seriously en masse). Everywhere I looked there were bunnies – around our ankles, under the cars, in the bushes. Why there were so many and why they were so tame was never explained but this is Iceland – a country that believes in elves and trolls so let’s say no more. The house itself (which was thankfully bunny-free) was a labyrinth of small interlinked rooms, each one festonned with fairy lights, lurid murals and various eclectic nicky nacky noos. No surface was untouched by the hand of kitsch.
The first stage of the sweat involved putting on some cheap plastic sunglasses that corresponded to our date of birth (I was turquoise), having our pulse points dabbed with a melange of suspicious smelling unguents and then going inside for some wild dancing in the disco room. Here, 18 barefoot men and women in various stages of undress moved, grooved, shimmied and flailed to the likes of Frankie goes to Hollywood, bongo from the Congo and something by Madonna involving the lyrics ‘kill the bitch’. It wasn’t exactly spiritual but we did all get off on the raw energy of ‘Relax, don’t do it’ and I had tremendous fun shaking my maracas. After we’d worked up a light sweat, we put our cozzies on and went out into the chill night air to the sweat lodge itself, a low-level yurt type construction covered with tarpaulin and blankets with no windows and only a small entrance. We had to bend double to get in – scrabbling to find a space in the dark, smoky interior. There we sat, cheek by jowl in a circle around a fireplace waiting for the sweat to start. Then the hot stones came in, the flap went down, the water went on, and the chanting began. ‘ooooooohhh I’m not claustrophobic, I’m not claustrophobic’, I chanted to myself as the Mexican lady with the big legs next to me keeled over. In between each 15 minute session of wailing and panting, the flap would open and someone would throw a wet flannel and a bottle of water at us. By the end of the fifth session, one girl had had a panic attack and legged it and I was rolling around moaning and wiping my face in the dirt – the only piece of cool in the whole ruddy place. Then Nonni (Master of the Flannel and ecstatic dance DJ) said we were done and could leave. I crawled out and collapsed on the grass, a quivering wreck. Nonni came over and threw a bucket of cold water over me and we all got in a hot tub. Later on, around midnight we had some watery soup and Nonni read my rune stones. He said I shouldn’t travel the next day as something would happen. I felt like slapping him.
It’s festival time in Brighton which means a whole lot of showing off, and drawing attention to oneself. These are not necessarily the same thing. For example, when I went to see the Gay Men’s Chorus in a church the other night, the highlight wasn’t ‘I am what I am’ but all the traffic to the vestry toilet. God knows what was going on in there but it was a big crowd pleaser; indeed, one Oriental ‘lady’ (this being the month of the Lady Boy, one never knows for sure) tottered along three times in her high heels – never once trying to muffle her clacking, even during the tender yet miserable rendition of Michael Buble’s ‘Home’. Talking of disrespectful audiences, last night, I went to see some modern dance at the Dome. First of all, we were confronted by a small pocket of Pro-Palestinian supporters outside who were protesting at the Israeli fiddlers playing in the Corn Exchange. Then, we were just settling down to some plinky plonky legs akimbo, decidedly non-Nijinsky moves when a family of four featuring a topless 10 year old boy – slumped down behind us and proceeded to chew, burp and slurp their way through the performance while simultaneously smelling of wee. After a sort of avant garde Gay Gordons where the dancers kept launching themselves, foetal-like off each other’s thighs, our aromatically challenged neighbours were moved to the back of the auditorium where they could reek and rustle to their heart’s content. Then, during a totally silent piece, someone’s mobile went off and four people stomped out. We later found out that there’d been a bit of a rumpus in the Jerusalem Quartet involving the same shouty people we’d seen at the entrance. Some old people in the audience cried while others tried to wrestle the protesters to the ground. And all the while, like the Titanic, the band played on. Talking of live performance, I went for a walk on the normally peaceful South Downs the other night and, on returning to Ditchling Beacon car park, found a man standing by his open-doored camper van playing a saxophone willy nilly. OK, so he wanted to share his jazz warbling with us but we didn’t need the bloody Hammond organ backing track. I mean, there’s a time and place. Talking of which, half naked man over the road has recently taken to going the whole hog and removing his underpants around tea-time and standing, quite casually, hands on hip at his front window. I did wonder if his was an Open House and he was doing a bit of performance art but then the police came and took him away so maybe not.
Last weekend was White Night in Brighton. What that, I hear you ask. Well, I’m not sure because this year, like last year, I was there but not there, if you get my drift; the action was strangely elusive. Early evening I’d sauntered up to Kemp Town to hear a man warbling away on an organ in a glorified garage. This being Brighton, I was drinking Bishop’s Finger out of a Clarice Cliff teacup and trying not to rub up against a sink full of someone’s dirty dinner plates. Warble over, I went down town to check out the bohemian action. First off, I passed through the Old Steine where a couple of flappers were holding a Charleston dance class in a big top. On New Road, a woman/man/bit of both was singing Dolly Parton tunes to a sozzled mob from a small balconette while in a church on West Street, they were holding life drawing classes in the vestry – apples or tits, there was a choice. I headed for the Pavilion Gardens where I joined a queue for five minutes for I know not what. Then I headed for Fabrica where I’d heard there was going to be a bit of shouting but when I got there the shouting had stopped or quite possibly hadn’t started. Next was the Dome which was thronged with all manner of costumed folk: zombies and nymphomaniacs were favourite and in the ladies toilet, someone (probably the King Kong I’d seen at the bar) had ripped a toilet bowl off its moorings causing quite a flood. This, I felt, was more in keeping with the likes of the Stanmer Arms (famous for the night a man had his ear bitten off because he’d looked at someone funny). On the way home, I didn’t trip on a coke can and sprain my ankle like last year but I was glad to get in and have a nice cup of tea.
The night after the coffee cup reading, I went on an adventure in a tank. Our group was mostly German but for some light relief, there was also an odd Japanese woman who spent the whole day eating dried fish on the back seat. We were heading to Thorsmork, scene of the volcanic eruption that blighted the airline industry early last year. On the way, we passed by an aluminium factory, an ‘Elf Church’, and a town full of greenhouses. With the Icelandic diet full of stuff like shark, sheep heads and fish balls, apparently, they go ga-ga for exotic fruits. Yes, this was banana city. Anyway, the town, our trusty guide told us, is built on a very thin crust of earth which can make gardening a bit of a precarious business. No double digging here then! In fact, one family famously had a geyser explode in their front room one Friday night while they were watching Deal or no Deal. Moving on to the volcano, we collected a plastic bag of volcanic ash, went to the toilet and got soaking wet trying to cross a glacial stream. Oh how we laughed as we stumbled across volcanic boulders, leaping from one rock to another and occasionally losing our balance and toppling into the raging torrents of water, right up to our knees, soaking right through our two pairs of trousers, special rambling socks and new leather boots. Gggrrrrr! At the end of the trip, back at Friend A’s, I had a quick sulphorous shower then it was onto the ladies-only ecstatic dance class. With Moby on the sound system and the honk of incense in the air, we twizzled, swooned and skipped our way barefoot around the room. There was a bit of ‘smudging’ – although that had to stop when one lady singed her snood – and at one point we all had a group hug. I found this a little claustrophobic as I was on the inside and had a very hefty lady called Stella who was giving me way too much love from behind and pressing me into Olin’s quite frankly, dangerous breasts. Of course, my other problem was wind – what with all that jumping up and down on my eggs and cold meat breakfast, I had terrible difficulty holding in my gases. Finally, the ecstasy reached a climax and we sat around in a circle, massaging each other’s knobbly bits. And so, with my chakras wide open and positively tingling, it was time to get pissed. We headed down to the local pub, a cavernous working men’s club style gaff rammed to the gills with one-armed bandits and pool tables. Sadly, they were short on punters, save for three be-hooded odd-bods who were sat at the bar, huddled over their pints, watching a documentary about polar bears on the bar’s big screen. In the ad break, one of them staggered over, slipped me some Icelandic blarney and kissed the top of my head. Was this my coffee-cup hero? God help me.
On my second night in Reykjavik, I had a choice of dinner – sheep’s head hot pot or fish balls. I’d seen the sheep in the supermarket and they didn’t say ‘eat me’ so I went with the balls. After dinner, we headed down to the local geothermal pool for a spot of hot tubbing. De rigeur in Iceland is a naked, and very thorough shower before you get anywhere near the water. Then, when all your bits are nicely warm and tingly, you slide into your cozzie and run barefoot and dripping outside into the dark, dank Icelandic night and flap around like a headless (and featherless) chicken looking for some sulphorous bubbles on which to park your frozen derriere. I simmered gently for a while in one tub then slipped into the adjacent tub which was coming up to a rolling boil. It got a bit intense so I went and petted myself in the pool then nipped into the sauna but, as you’d expect, there were a lot of Viking types lying around on sun loungers with flannels over their dangly bits so I called it a night. The next evening I was invited to a Buddhist meeting at a nice little bungalow in the burbs. We did a bit of omming, lots of hugging, then had some nibbly cheese crackers. After that, by way of a spiritual finale, I had my coffee cup read. Apparently, I’m going to meet a 38 year old Icelandic hunk who won’t like me much for the first three weeks then will become like a limpet and never let me go. I am still waiting for this to occur….
Yesterday, I was confronted with my dark past. If anyone recalls my foray into ballroom dancing, the scariest part of the whole experience, down at King Alfred’s, was the individual with the mullet and the variant leg length who wrestled me around the room, spinning me off and then whizzing me back quick smart into his pigeon chest. With his range of bodily afflictions (including the Billy Rae Cyrus haircut) and mock leather blouson jacket, I felt sure he hailed from the Eastern bloc but when he opened his mouth it was pure Worthing. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw him dressed as a postman, delivering a parcel to the house next door. Needless to say, I ducked inside pronto; one cannot be too careful with lone men who like to skip the light fandango in the company of strangers. Talking about strangers, I’m glad to note that the student in the opposite house who prances around his curtainless bedroom twanging on a guitar while oggling my supine form, has done the decent thing and put up a blind. I’ve never felt so exposed (apart from that ugly incident in the Greek cowshed) and have resolved to sort out my own malfunctioning blind forthwith.
As if I didn’t have enough diddly diddly music at my folky foray in the summer, friend X has seduced me into another banjo extravaganza. This one involves men in dungarees, Grandad shirts and bowler hats. Not so much Mumford and Sons as Mr Mainwaring on his day off from the Home Guard. Anyway, if I think the band is slightly eccentric, the audience is off its head. First of all, we’ve got a man in a three piece suit carrying a leather briefcase complete with racoon tail. Mind you, this is Lewes, a town that embraces paganism and likes its cats, not so much in a basket by the fire but splayed across a front door with a big nail in its head, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Then there’s the woman with the Suzi Quatro feathercut and trilby hat talking to the barman about fellatio at the top of her voice. She’s having to shout to make herself heard over the band which is great because we now know she gives great head but she always takes her hat off first. Meanwhile, the band has whipped the audience up into a frenzy and when I say people are ‘dancing’, I mean they’re skipping and pirouetting and twizzling like maniacs. As I leave, the girl with the trilby hat is flashing her pants to a man on a washboard. Blow job anyone?
“What good is sitting alone in your room. Come hear the music play”, sang Liza. So when in Berlin, on a four day city mini-break, I thought, must see the Berlin Philharmonic. However, said orchestra and its crazy haired conductor, Simon Rattle, had gone on its hols to Salsburg which meant we were left with a manky bunch of fiddlers from the former Eastern bloc and their camp conductor, Igor. The concert was called ‘A night in St Petersburg’ so I knew it was going to be a bit Nutcrackery. However, what I wasn’t expecting was a troupe of lumpen ‘dancers’ in nylon ball gowns who couldn’t cock a leg higher than their Slavic crotches. Needless to say, the highlight for me, was the jumbo pretzel in the interval which had an interesting cheesy filling. Other highlights: sitting on a toilet that David Bowie/Iggy Pop may or may not have also sat on, doing the cha cha cha at the gypsy ballroom and losing my passport at the airport on the way home.