Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Top Hats & Tails: A Ragroof Players Tea Dance

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016

With most of our weekend in Norwich already planned, I was searching in the Norfolk & Norwich Festival website for something to do on the Sunday afternoon. The minute I saw the listing for the Ragroof Players Tea Dance, I was sold. "Grab your top hat and tails", it said, "or shimmy into your most glamorous gown, for a Fred and Ginger special". I could not wait!  I envisaged an afternoon of Charleston and foxtrot, swing and jitterbug.

There was just one small problem: I cannot dance to save my life. That’s okay, thought I, I bet there will be some fantastic photo opportunities. Nevertheless, I dug a little deeper and that is where I discovered the charm of the Ragroof Players dances – you don’t need to know how to dance. Lifelong dancer or absolute beginner, there is something for everyone at their dances.

We arrived at the Adnams Spiegeltent in the early afternoon and were seated in a booth at the side of the dancefloor. We were offered tea and cakes, although if you wanted to break the Prohibition you could order something a little stronger at the bar. When we arrived, there were couples swanning across the dancefloor, ever the picture of elegance and poise.

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (4)

Soon enough, it was time for a beginner’s dance demonstration and I was surprised at how many of us swarmed to the dancefloor. This is the point at which I’d normally tell you how I took to it like a duck to water and couldn’t believe how quickly I learned the various steps including basic ballroom and salsa but alas, I cannot tell a lie. My dance skills are profoundly lacking.

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (2)

I did enjoy myself, as you can see from the massive smile on my face in the photo below and it has made me quite determined to go for dance lessons now to master at least one or two rhythms. I dream of myself being able to swing like the Swing Kids and absolutely tearing up a dance floor.

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (3)

Our hosts were Marion Duggan, Matthew Blacklock, Ivan Fabrega and Anna Symes. They were absolutely wonderful and were dedicated in teaching us new steps and moving through the room to ensure that everybody had somebody to dance with.

Matthew Blacklock at the Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (6)

The Ragroof Players have a great philosophy too – they encourage people to drop gender norms and to learn to both lead and follow. “We don’t mind if you dance with someone of the same sex”, they said, “In fact, we encourage it!”

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (7)

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (12)

I really appreciated the spirit of inclusion and sense that everyone was welcome at the dance. A lady at my table was celebrating her 85th birthday and although unable to dance anymore, she was made to feel like the star of the show. I would have liked to see her dance – her daughter was an incredible dancer and when complimented on it, said that her mother had been even better.

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (13)

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (14)

All told, the Ragroof Tea Dance was an afternoon of good, clean fun which filled my love of vintage and retro. It made me realise just how much I love watching good dancers and yes, as I said, it has really fuelled my desire to learn to dance.

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (15)

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (16)

We had a super afternoon and I will definitely go to a Ragroof Players event again. I loved the opportunity to dress up and travel back to the heyday of Hollywood, screen sirens and dance.

Ragroof Tea Dance, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2016 (8)

Interested? Visit the Ragroof Players website or follow them on Twitter @Ragroof to find out when they are in your area.

We visited The Ragroof Tea Dance as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, one of the UK’s longest-running and largest international arts festivals featuring film, dance, contemporary music and a host of other events.

I’d like to thank Visit Norwich, Look Sideways–East and Ragroof Players for inviting me to experience the Ragroof Tea Dance. Our visit was complimentary and as always, all views and two left feet are my own.

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© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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