Now at age 14 things start to get serious!!
Leah (my first dance teacher, in episodes 1 & 2) has decided she hasn’t got the time or the experience to push Susan (my first partner in episode 1) and I further in the competition scene. This was sad, on one hand as we had kind of grown up with Leah, but on the other hand she realised she could not do any more for us and it was time to pass us on.
Leah suggested we go to Eric Lashbrooke, a coach who taught at Birkenhead near Liverpool. Now Eric in his younger days was considered a child prodigy, his dancing just came naturally (don’t you hate them). He won all the major championships with ease and I’m sure all the people who had been on the brink of making a final or even winning a championship were stunned as this kid just flew past them, some people have all the luck.
Now Eric was a bit of a lad and even had his collar felt by Mr Plod a few times, but when it came to dancing he had the magic touch. The Lashbrooke stable was well known and all his boys went on to do well, we did not like to come second. I spent many a Saturday dancing around with Eric chasing me and kicking me up the bum to get my hips forward (dancers should never stick their bums out, as I always tell my dancers) and to drive through.
We had much success as Juniors (12 to 16yrs) thanks to Eric and his wonderful wife Norma who supported us all the way. My last big championship as a junior was the International at the Royal Albert Hall in London where we tied for second place, “we should have won”, was the cry and yes I think we should have, as we danced for our lives out there. There is a happy ending though, two days later in Belgium we totally annihilated all the couples that had beaten us at the Royal Albert Hall and they never came close again. Sadly, my friend Michael Shepherd who we tied with at the International died soon after in a motorcycle accident, I still think of him often.
Dance outfits are very important as you must look good on the dance floor plus they help you get noticed by the judges. Tail suits for the men are standard and there are very few tailors can cut them for dancing. A good Tail suit even back in the 70’s would cost about ￢￡400 and combined with a fully decorated dress and shoes etc. you were talking about 1200 to 1500 pounds. My parents had my first Tail suit made by a tailor in Worcester, he must have had a bad day when he made mine as it just would not sit right on the shoulders. Now if you don’t have a good clean flat shoulder line this does not look good and can count against you. So my mother jumped into action two days before a championship and single handedly dismantled the shoulders of my new suit. Now my mother was not one to mess with, and armed with her well oiled Jones sewing machine and several sessions of dressmaking at night school she attacked the suit like a tailor possessed. After many sleepless hours the result was astounding, it fitted perfectly and looked fantastic out on the floor. Aren’t Mums great!
Dresses were even more of a pain, as unlike the man’s suit you had to have about three or four new one’s each year or people would get fed up seeing you in the same dress. To save money we often sat around the table and glued rhinestones on to the bodice of the dress. There were thousands of them and you came out with big gluey fingers at the end. The line you often hear used to hear on ‘Come Dancing’ “And here’s Gladys and Norman demonstrating the Waltz, Gladys has sewn all 47,000 sequins on with Norman’s help” (and that’s why they are both cross eyed).
Episode 4, which will be coming out shortly will feature my early days as an Amateur (adult) Dancer, some exciting results and my move to London at the tender age of 18.
Thanks for reading, stay tuned!