When can we dance with anyone and everyone?

I am sure that for most of us, the thoughts that occupy our minds the most revolve around the safety of ourselves and our loved ones in these difficult times.  Not far behind will be worries about a so-called second wave.  In the remaining headspace many of us keep asking the same question:

When will we be allowed to return to the dance floor as we knew it and be allowed to mingle freely with each other and have the freedom to dance with anyone and everyone?

I, like many people, have been very impressed with the way dance organisations have found many varied and creative ways to keep the interest in dancing alive and it is encouraging to now see the provision of fixed-couple workshops.  Recently I’ve been heartened by so-called Parties in The Park.  These have given people a chance to meet up safely with their dance friends.

We want to know when scenes like this will return.  Photo courtesy of Tel Jenkins

We badly miss the social interaction

For many of us dancing provided a means for relaxed social interaction.  Indeed for the many single people, like myself, it provided one of the few, sometimes the only means of meeting people.  No wonder then that even though I have put my blog into a self-imposed coma, my two previous articles asking the question about our return have received surprising levels of readership.  The first of those articles has had almost 900 visits.

In both these articles, I looked at what was happening in other parts of the world, where the virus was seemingly more under control than in the UK, hoping it would give some substance to the question everyone keeps asking.  In this third article, I’ll be following up what’s happening in two of those places and I have some news of what is happening in Sydney, Australia.

Some fantastic news

I’ll start this article with a piece of fantastic news.  It seems that dancing is back to normal in The Isle of Man.  Back in July, I was sent a link to the Ceroc Isle of Man Facebook page and it showed the posting below.  The Isle of Man became Covid infection free on 3 June and on 15 June gatherings of up to thirty people were permitted.

Ceroc Isle of Man held their first class night on 14 July and are holding a Post Lockdown Freestyle on 7 August.  Interestingly I’ll be at my computer all that night working on this article.  I couldn’t help thinking that I might think about spending some time over there, but I get the impression that only relatives and key workers are allowed in, with the necessary 14-day quarantine of course.

Interestingly there was talk of a quarantine-free airbridge between the Isle of Man and Guernsey in the Channel Islands being launched in July.  This is another Covid free island, where back in July I read a report that night clubs are free to open with no restrictions on dancing.  I’m sure that there are similar tight restrictions on visiting Guernsey too.

These photos were posted on July 14

More news from Australia

Back in June, after publishing my article featuring Shane McIntyre’s thoughts about the opening up of his Modern Jive dance class in Australia, I received a message from Neil March.  Neil had spent some time dancing with Ceroc in Sydney last year and was still on their mailing list and was getting updates from Julie Gunn who runs six venues in the Sydney area.

He suggested that I contact Julie direct and I’m so pleased that I did, as she has offered a lot of thoughts about the return of dancing to her locations, that I think will be of interest to everyone here in the UK.

First, a smile to our faces

But first, we need cheering up, and what better way than to let some Aussie dancers bring a smile to our faces.  Back in mid-March Julie decided to voluntarily close her venues, a week head of the Australian Government’s own decree.  As a way of staying in touch with her dancers and keeping the Sydney Ceroc spirit alive, Julie invited them to video themselves dancing.   She then put together this video that she posted on her Facebook Page.

I couldn’t stop laughing.  Who ever the lady is dancing around her vacuum cleaner, someone should sign her up, for she is a star.  But even she is eclipsed by the guy dancing around his punch bag.  What’s wonderful about the video is some of the settings.  They give a joyous picture of life down under even in these difficult times.

So much fun did Julie have putting this video together, that she decided to do one every month.  I’ve put a link to the follow-up one at the bottom of this article.  For the first video, Julie used ELO’s All over the world.  In her Facebook posting she wrote these words:

Enjoy! And feel free to share it and spread the love of Ceroc in Sydney ‘all over the world’!

I’m pleased to do my bit to show everyone just what fun they have at Ceroc in Sydney and one day I’ll get over to meet you all.  Oh and will some one dance with me in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge please?

Julie treads very carefully

Julie tells me that partner dancing is allowed in New South Wales, the state where Sydney is located, but dance classes are limited to a maximum of twenty people.  Within these small groups, dancing with fixed partners from within your Covid Safe Bubble is allowed but Julie has so far decided against it.  At the moment she is only offering solo dance lessons:

I’ve been doing non-contact solo dance routines since mid-June at three of my locations with a maximum of 20 in a class.

These have been going pretty well and are providing people with the opportunity to reconnect with their Ceroc community even if only for an hour a week.

Julie set up an online booking system so that she can safely limit the numbers to her twenty people maximum.  It was great to see this latest posting that shows the classes are selling out fast.

BYO classes still not running

I wondered when Julie might start up fixed partner classes, which have begun to open up in the UK.  In Australia, they call these BYO partner classes, as in Bring-Your-Own partner.  Julie tells me that while she is being asked to run such classes, she is still a little hesitant.  If and when she does, Julie intends to restrict BYO partners to those within their own household.  I was interested to hear this.

Back in the UK, the idea is circulating about a partner being someone from your, so-called, Covid Safe Bubble.  Sadly there seem to be differing interpretations of what this might mean.  I can understand why then, with her concern for her dancers’ safety, Julie is restricting BYO partners to members of the same household if and when these classes do get underway.

UK Dance Organisations are also hesitant

I know back in the UK, dance organisations are also hesitant about providing fixed partner classes.  There are obvious financial implications if class sizes have to be restricted and I do wonder what the take up will be.  I’ve always thought that most of the people who attend class nights are single and would not be able to meet the criteria for a Covid Safe Social bubble.  Julie also has her own reason for hesitating to offer BYO partner classes:

There are concerns about the limited experience we would be able to provide.  It’s my understanding that people come to Ceroc for the social contact, particularly those living alone, and we’re not going to be able to provide that opportunity with the restricted numbers and the need to stay socially distanced from the other dancers in the room.

That would be my reason for not going to a fixed partner class – assuming, of course, I could find a partner.  I have always thought the appeal of Ceroc and Modern Jive events was the chance to be able to dance with a variety of people, particularly in the freestyle part of the evening.  I think that while there might be an initial enthusiasm for fixed partner classes, there is a growing realism that any pent-up demand might tail off pretty soon.

Of course, what we all really want to know is when freestyles, as we knew them, will restart.  I found this picture on Julie’s Facebook page.  One can only wonder when scenes like this from a Sydney freestyle will become a reality again.

A Willoughby Ceroc Dance Party

Julie’s honesty is a dose of realism

I’d like to extend my thanks to Julie for sharing her thoughts about the future of social dancing in New South Wales.  Even for a State that did a lot better at dampening down the virus than the UK, the outlook doesn’t seem any rosier than it is here.  Julie is well aware of the need for us all to play our part in helping stop the spread of this horrible disease, and that keeping off the dance floor may be our most worthwhile contribution.  The last thing we all want is a dance class becoming the latest hotspot.

I conceived this series of articles to bring some hope to our longing to be back on the dance floor.  However, it seems that they are merely adding a sense of realism that we may not be back on the dance floor until there is a widely available vaccine.  I’ll conclude this look at Ceroc in Australia with another of Julie’s Facebook posts.

Faced with having to cancel another event, Julie simply changed the date from 2020 to 2021.  Something tells me that it is increasingly likely that the much-hoped-for events in the UK this winter, may see their dates changed in the same way.  Of course, I hope not, but the reality is beginning to set in, even with me.  A good reason to watch that Aussie guy dance around his punchbag again.  Oh, and don’t forget to click on the link below for Julie’s follow up video.  That too, I’m sure, will raise a smile.

Sadly this event should have been taking place in November of this year

A dance joy fix from Sweden

I’ll finish this post with another look at Sweden.  In my July article, I wrote about the open-air Tango dancing that my friend Lena had found.  It seems that she keeps finding these pop-up events to go to, and I’ll have an update later on in this article.

While Sweden has encouraged social distancing and introduced measures to stop the spread of the virus, it didn’t put its economy into the same kind of lockdown as happened in  most other European countries.  This had given the dance community a little more freedom than we have in the UK.

This month I got in touch with Nils and Bianca, who are very well known Swing and Lindy Hop performers and teachers in Sweden, to ask them about the way they were running their dance classes.  I’m pleased to say that they got back to me and I found their perspective very interesting, but first, let’s have a look at them dancing.  We all know how joyous dancing can be.  It is that feeling of joy that I miss so much, but watching Nils and Bianca performing gave me a much-appreciated dance joy fix.

I’ve put a link below to Nils and Bianca’s YouTube Channel below, where you can watch more of their fabulous Swing and Lindy Hop dancing.

People seem very cautious about changing partners

I asked Nils and Bianca whether people were allowed to swap partners at their classes.  Bianca had this to say:

Events are still limited to fifty people, but as far as I’m aware there is no law against swapping partners.

This was great to hear, but it came with an interesting caveat.  Bianca explained that it was hers and Nils’ feeling that while couples are allowed to swap partners, they feel that people will prefer to stay as fixed couples.  Here’s Bianca again:

We have been asking our students and most of them do not want to change partners for the classes in the autumn.

Because Sweden didn’t lockdown like other European countries, it’s infection rates have been a lot higher, though Lena tells me that things have improved considerably.  It seems that while there is any level of Covid in the community, Bianca’s comment suggests that people will be cautious.  Does this mean that in the UK many people will only venture to a dance class or freestyle event when the virus is completely eradicated or we have a proven vaccine?

Is this a way forward?

Of course, the guidelines in the UK don’t give people that choice at the moment, but I can’t help starting to think about which way people might go.  I suspect a lot will follow Nils and Bianca’s dancers and be very cautious about swapping partners, but we won’t know until we are given the choice.  My latest update from Lena shows that things are slowly and carefully easing up in Sweden.  She tells me that people are starting to swap partners at Tango Milongas:

We have started to shift partners a little bit, but only between close friends.

Lena tells me that her fellow dancers do not want to unwittingly spread the virus and some are even dancing in masks.  I suspect what is happening here, is that people are making a judgement about the people they dance with.  You, at least, have a chance of knowing if your close friends have been sensible with who they mix with.  It’s this common-sense approach that is also encouraging small private invitation-only Milongas to take place in Sweden.  Is a way to get us back dancing for the UK government to, at some point, allow us to make common sense decisions about who we dance with?

Next time – I’ll find something in the news

I’ll be back in early September with more news from around the world.  At this point, I’m not sure where, but I’m constantly watching my news feeds for anything that relates to dancing in other countries.  I’m sure I’ll find something to add a little more perspective to the question of When will normal service be resumed?  In the meantime, I’m going to keep a lookout for more of Julie’s fabulous Aussie videos.  Oh and if anybody else has done anything similar please let me know.  It’s always good to bring a smile to people’s faces.

The other article in this series

The view from June

The view from July

Related Links

More dance fun from Sydney

Nils and Bianca’s YouTube Channel

Nils and Bianca’s Facebook Page