My Early Dancing in England
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My Early Dancing in England

by Terence Levine
A Fellow with the IDTA and the UKA in Ballroom and Latin and examiner with the NADTA for many years

I guess its a question that is frequently asked is "When did you start dancing?" It crops up with me just about every new class I teach. I need to break my intrusion into Ballroom into 2 distinct time periods. 

Like many of my era (the 1930s) our mothers had discovered the perfect baby sitter.... the Dance school! I was about 3-4 yearrs of age, and was precocious and willing. Within a very short time, I found myself performing on a wooden stage at a local summer festival. Little could I have known how this would impact my dancing future.

My teacher (a lady) was accomplished in 2 disciplines, Stage and beginner's ballroom dancing. The waltz was the first thing to entice me into the realization that there was a whole new field of endeavour to be explored. I abandoned the stage aspect, and took on all the challenges that this new medium started to present. I started taking regular classes in the 2 dances that children were allowed at that time, Waltz and Quickstep. Being small of stature, and also very athletic, I took to quickstep like the preverbial duck to water. Also, the added advantage of "in house" competitions on Saturday mornings tested my prowess. I also should add that I was dancing "Old Time", a sequence form, with dances like the Square Tango , Veleta and Barn dance  for pleasure and fun.

My serious training began in the war time period, and I was living in a small Northern seaside resort away from the  heavy bombing (we got our share!)
Jimmy Stevenson was my teacher as a child. He  later on in life won the British Formation Team Championship 3 times, and he was the one who introduced  the "medley". Secondly, Connie Grant was my teacher in my early teen to adult life.

There was also something I would come to realize as I got older, the value of "floor" craft . Practice time was a key factor in maintaining more than a passing interest, and the war years provided ample opportunity to practice on a weekly basis. Public dance halls were commonplace. The ,ain problem was getting in at my age, because these dance halls primarily for adults. I duly stood outside on Friday and Saturday nights, begging for someone to please "take me in"! I always succeded. Some of the places I frequented were Hammersmith Palais, Streatham Locarno, and numerous dance schools.

In my next article I will be exploring the dancers who influenced my perceptions as a developing ballroom dancer.

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