About 25 years ago, I took up dancing as a hobby to get out and socialise with more people my own age.
The classes I attended were JazzFunk lessons held at the Dance Works opposite Selfridges in Oxford Street or sometimes at the Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden. Other dancers, I became friends with, introduced me to a variety of dance and my weekends were taken up with at least eight sessions of classes.
The weekend timetable
Firstly, I attended a double session of Jazz at the Urdang Academy, Covent Garden, then hurtled to Covent Garden Tube Station to travel to Brixton Recreation Centre for a double session of Afro-Brazilian classes on Saturdays. Secondly, on Sundays, a double session of Jazz at the Urdang Academy followed by a two-hour Samba session with a school at Waterloo.
I was also taught by two excellent Afro-Brazilian teachers, Francis and Edson. The classes were second to none. the moves and stories behind the dances were educational as well as strenuous. From the traditional African dance to the samba steps performed at the Rio Carnival. We danced at various venues but my favourite happened to be at the South Bank, London - pictured with the light coloured tights.
You could try tea!
The shade of tights back then - were either black or barely black I needed the tights in a hurry and bought the only colour the shop had at the time. The choice of colours, shades and textures of tights available today is out of this world. Twenty-five years ago, if the shops didn’t have the ‘barely black’ shade of tights, the alternative was to either dye a body stocking or the tights in tea water. I never did this, as it was too much of an effort!
He thought he got lucky!
There were the highs and lows about performing. My least favourite venue and memory happened when I was dancing as a Passista with the Samba School at Covent Garden Piazza. I didn’t have a back piece to the costume then. We finished the performance and as I was making my way back stepping across the cobbled pathway in my high heels, someone pinched my bottom.
I quickly turned around and punched the person in the chest and yelled at him not to touch me. My other friends who were the Baianas turned back and formed a circle around me. The guy, in his twenties, looked stunned, sheepish and slunk away in a hurry.
I represented the Samba School at Notting Hill Carnival as either the Porta Bandeira - Flag Bearer or Baiana (typical outfit of a Baiana - pictured in the blue costume). As a Passita, I would only perform either in enclosed venues or on stage, (pictured with the headdresses) especially after the Covent Garden incident.
We were contracted to perform at different venues, whether dancing with the Afro-Brazilian Group or the Samba School. The contracts often meant no payment, but it was essential to have a record of performances in order to apply for an Equity Card. The private venues were clubs like the Limelight or making appearances at birthday parties and other similar functions.
This was my hobby and interest I took up over 25 years ago to make friends and is the reason why I love all things relating to carnival.