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Animated Edition - Autumn 2007
Participating in sequence dancing
Maureen Flanighan, Dance Teacher
Where there is a family wedding, an office party, on holiday or a night our, with a place and the space, you will find people coming together to dance in the ballroom mood. The waltz, jive or foxtrot are still as popular as ever. Complete strangers come together, hold each other as though they are intimate companions, and move around the floor to the Sinatra or Matt Monroe sound.

There are no age barriers, no embarrassment if the young dance with aunts, uncles, cousins or even grandparents, you simply move to the music and enjoy the moment.

So what is it that changed social ballroom dancing into sequence dancing? The loss of the huge ballrooms, Rock and Roll and Bingo certainly played their part.

Today's social ballroom is danced in a sixteen bar dance and called sequence dancing, a form of dancing that has become a social institution.

Most sequence dancers go out to dance four or five times a week. There are sequence dances in church halls and community centres across the country. Until fairly recently it was estimated that there were more people attending sequence dancing than going to football matches and the enthusiasm and loyalty of sequence fans is equal to that of any football supporter.

Each sequence club is individual and unique and seeks to provide dancing that is popular with their own dancers.

For many retired people the local sequence dance is the place to meet up with friends keep up with the gossip, retain their place in the community and be part of an informal monitoring network. For those who choose to use their dance club to learn the new dances, there are 44 new dances every year, nothing better to keep those brain cells alive. Others are happy to go to dances where they dance what have become classic routines, and chat with friends as they move around the floor. The joy of sequence dancing is that there is something there for everyone.

Sequence dancing is an excellent low level exercise and it is not unusual to find members well into their 90's dancing as regularly as the 60 year olds. People pay money for creams to make them look young when the exercise from sequence dancing can have the same effect. Often there are seventeen different dances on a programme, waltz to jive, foxtrot to cha cha cha, salsa and quickstep. During the two and a half hours of dancing each night every dancer could easily reach their 12,000 steps without really thinking about it. Just what the doctor ordered.

The physical benefits are apparent but the bonds that bind sequence dancers together are also very strong. Every dance leader will recognise and celebrate their dancers' life goals. Parties are held for everything and arranged at the drop of a hat, all sequence dancers love good food and dressing up. On the other side of the coin if a need arises there is always someone to give support and comfort to aid a friend's recovery and get them back onto the dance floor.

It is not unusual for couples to meet at a beginner's class, fall in love and go on to share their lives together. Sequence dance holidays where they will meet up with other sequence dancers from across the country are often annual events. Willing volunteers are always on hand to sell raffle tickets and raise funds to subsidise special events. For the older generation sequence dancing is a night out with friends that have become family.

So what of the younger people, what opportunities do they have to become sequence dancers and share in that sense of commonality?

Until very recently most beginners found it very difficult to get the support they needed to get started. Now many dance schools are running beginner's ballroom classes where dancers can go on to learn some of the classical sequence routines. In the past young men came into beginners ballroom dancing because their wives and partners dragged them along, few in the past joined a class by themselves. It has always acceptable for two ladies to dance together, however that does not follow with two men. Often it is the men who will make the quicker progress, and it is this enthusiasm that ensures the couple's dancing future.

Without any doubt thirteen weeks of free advertising from Strictly Ballroom has given ballroom dancing a huge annual boost. Men see famous sportsmen dancing and are no longer fearful of giving it a try and often come into class themselves seeking a partner to dance with.

So where would you start. To be able to sequence dance you need to have a knowledge of the basic ballroom and latin figures. Undoubtedly your teacher will give you a simple sequence of steps that includes the basic natural and reverse turns. Within two or three weeks most people are ready to learn their first sixteen bar sequence dance which will contain all of the basic figures and perhaps some new ones. Learning is so much easier when it is done with others and being able to laugh at your mistakes makes learning fun. Your teacher may run dances as well as classes where you can enjoy a programme of dancing that you have learned with new friends.

Sequence dancing is for everyone, whether young or old, social dancer or competitor.

Maureen Flanighan can be contacted at shoppersbasket@yahoo.com

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Animated: Autumn 2007