Tuesday, 13 December 2016

What Shall We Do With The Dancing Sailor?

The only down side to making your hobby your job is that you need a new hobby. To be perfectly honest, it’s really not a bad situation to have to deal with!

My favourite hobby for many years has been boating. I have fond, although somewhat faded, memories from when I was young of a few family holidays that were spent on boats cruising the rivers and canals here in the UK. I have more recent memories (still a bit blurred, but this time for a different reason!) of many boating shenanigans that have taken place throughout my adult life. The ‘Poogate’ situation stands out. (Don’t all go for a curry unless you know there’s a working pump-out very close by.) When the tank is full, the tank is full. It’s just not good river etiquette to send out floaters from your overflow pipe!

Six years ago, thanks to a Mambo dancing friend owning a yacht, I added sailing into the mix. Now this is even better. Instead of driving a noisy bathtub up or down the river, you’ve got sails and a keel and a big open sea. You can switch the motor off and experience a fairground ride effect as the boat heels over. It can be a pub crawl, the same as on the river, but you also have the option of popping over to a restaurant in France. (Or pooping even, as there’s no pump-out required if you’re out at sea!)

Toilet humour aside, during the times I’ve spent on the water I’ve noticed a few things in relation to dance. A perhaps surprising observation is that people who list ‘dancing’ as their main hobby make much better crew than people who list ‘sailing’ as their main hobby! Dancers are much more confident leaping from a boat to a riverbank or a pontoon. Dancers are more coordinated, have better balance and are much better at timing their actions in relation to the rest of the crew. They’re also very used to having instructions called out to them. Dancers are nimble, fit, have good spatial awareness and can coordinate their movements in time with others. They’re also much more likely to play music and party at any time of day, even if strangers are watching, with or without the aid of alcohol. Whenever I’m in the role of Skipper dancers are very welcome on board.




On a recent sailing trip it also occurred to me how helming a yacht is very similar to leading a dance partner. I teach leading as well as following even though the role of leader, is usually done by a man. I’m a confident lead. When I lead beginners they dance much better with me than with most other people. When I lead ladies who can already dance they give me feedback that I’m a better lead than most men. I’ve danced with most of the best Mambo dancers in the world so I know what a good lead feels like and I’m also able to replicate it. The only thing I can’t replicate is being tall! Being tall means you can give a far better lead for spins (if of course you’ve been taught how to lead spins correctly). I’m also confident helming a yacht. You can’t force a yacht to take a specific accurate line. The wind and waves will always have their say. As with a dance partner you can suggest a particular direction or move but you can’t force her to follow. She is her own force of nature and will interpret what you initiate as she feels best. If you try to overpower her and you break one of her nails or mess up her hair, she’s not likely to dance with you again for quite some time. Back on your yacht, if you push the sails out of shape or snap some of the rigging it’s game over…      Only this time, you’re all at sea.

I’ve taught some of my Mambo students a shine (solo sequence) called ‘sailor’. If you look carefully you can spot it on YouTube in the show I performed with Nelson Flores. Just remember, next time you’re dancing on a deck rather than a dance floor don’t be having so much fun you forget to keep an eye on your tank gauges.


…Hooray and up she rises, early in the morning.

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