Childhood memories of dance lessons - Scottish nostalgia


29 April 2016
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Ann Burnett recalls the fun of childhood dance lessons... and the nervous expectation before that first public performance.

Ann Burnett recalls the fun of childhood dance lessons... and the nervous expectation before that first public performance. 

Being such a shy wee girl and very clingy, my mother decided to encourage me to branch out and be more sociable so she enrolled me in an infant's dance class in Mosspark, Glasgow. This class was for pre-school children and was run by a Miss McLeod, who also took ballet and Highland dance classes. The classes were held in a small hall just off Paisley Road West which was obviously used for adult dancing as well as there was a notice pinned to the wall inside which read, 'No BeBopping Allowed.' I hadn't a clue what that meant but it sounded fascinating.

Each year in May, the Hopkins School of Dancing, of which Miss Mcleod was a part, held an annual ball where the students demonstrated their prowess in all the various forms of dancing that they’d been taught. And the infants were to be part of it! For some reason, I’d been chosen to lead the rest of my class in our pillow dance, which consisted of holding a small pram pillow and parading slowly around turning this way and that, until at the end we held the pillows to our cheeks and pretended to fall asleep.

THE BIG DAY

The great day arrived. The ball was to be held in the McLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday afternoon so that all the mums, dads and grannies could attend. I was dressed in my party dress and my pillow had a fresh embroidered pillow slip put on it 'so as not to show us up' as my mother put it. The audience sat on three sides around the dance floor. My little class was seated right in the front row so we could see the other dancers' performances. Unfortunately, when I turned round, I could see my mother sitting just a couple of rows behind me so I got up and ran to sit on her knee from where I refused to be budged.

The time came for the infants' class to perform their dance. But would I leave my mother's knee? No. It took all of Miss McLeod's persuasive skills plus my mother's hefty shove on my bottom to persuade me to come out on to the dance floor and perform. I remember leading the others through the dance with a scowl on my face just to let everyone know I was doing it under duress.

I actually continued to attend the dance school for quite a few years, gaining my grade three ballet certificate and learning many Scottish country dances like the Eightsome Reel, the Highland Schottische  and of course the Highland Fling. And I performed at all the annual balls with no trouble at all. Maybe I did learn quite a lot from that first traumatic public performance.