Quick step back in time for Gorleston dancers
BLACK and white spatz glide across the floor in a series of intricate steps as the Lindy Hop heats up and the dancers find their feet and get into the rhythm.
Through the large speakers a big band sound fills the room, and artists like Smiley Lewis or Bill Haley set a swift tempo. It’s an exciting, high octane scene straight from the dance rooms of the post-war period – and for one night a week every week it becomes a reality in Gorleston.
For 18 months, the town’s social club has played host to a 1940s and 1950s themed night of dance, which starts with lessons and moves into freestyle as the hours pass.
And the instructors of the session, which are attended by singles and couples both old and young, will be launching new beginners’ lessons next Tuesday.
Barry Palmer said he and wife Jo had danced in various forms for decades and said they wanted to run the free night and give the lessons “as a way of giving something back.”
An original rocker in his teens, the 62-year-old had previously run a successful rock ‘n’ roll night called Sounds That Swing rock ‘n’ roll club in Shrublands community centre with live bands.
However, though that night closed four years ago, it was there he discovered the sounds and dance moves of the 1940s.
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“We had a couple of people at the who had a 1940s theme,” he said. “They were dressed immaculately, and instead of leather jackets they had double-breasted suits, kipper ties and braces.
“There was a massive difference in style and dancing, it was a lot neater and there was fantastic footwork so I decided to get involved myself.”
They went along to 1940s dos, like the one you get in Ellough Airdrome in Beccles where they found they were novices. However, by watching the “pros” and practising they quickly improved.
When they took their new-found moves to the dance floor of Gorleston Social Club at a series of local bands nights, they were overwhelmed with the response.
“There were a lot of regulars who said they were gobsmacked when they saw the dancing, and we kept getting asked if we wanted to start teaching. Before I knew it, people were approaching us asking us saying we had started a dance club!”
And so the club, which combines rock of the 50s, with swing jive and big band sounds of the 40s, was launched.
Since then it has gone from strength to strength. Often attracting 60 people in a night, the emphasis is on giving things a try whether you have the grace of Fred Astaire or two left feet.
There are also monthly sessions in which specialist DJs from across the land show off their musical knowhow.
And as well as dances like the Charleston and teddie boy boogie there is even the social foxtrot, a jive version of the ballroom classic.
Among the most dedicated followers are Chris and Tahlia Collins from Fleggburgh who even got married in 40s style on VE Day last year.
“It’s the style and glamour of it,” explained Tahlia, 28. “Men look like men and women look like women, but although we liked the style we couldn’t do the dance.”
However, having been part of the social club nights since the start, that’s all changed. And with a preference for big swing bands, and moves like the jitterbug, they have “worn out the carpet” practising aerials and spins at home.
Chris, 32, added: “I think people have forgotten how to dance with each other and that’s half the fun of it, plus it’s nice to keep a bit of social history alive.”
A bit less experienced, but no less enthusiastic, is 30-year-old Matthew Smith who has only been attending for a few weeks and praised the fact that “everyone is very accepting and there’s a good atmosphere”.
This sentiment is echoed by grandparents Frances and Terry Payne, 67 and 71 years old respectively. They have been going along for the last three months.
Frances said: “It’s really good fun and the people are very friendly. It’s not intimidating or pressured either and that’s helped us get to a good standard.
With a wry grin, she added: “We hope to do it as long as our legs can keep up.”
The sessions take place every Tuesday at Gorleston Social Club on the High Street, with beginners’ sessions starting at 7.30pm and running till 8.45pm. A freestyle dancing session then follows. To find out more contact Barry and Jo on 01493 859615.