Wednesday 19 December 2018

Come dancing and leave your worries behind

Taking to the floor is good for both body and mind, and for romance, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan

TAKE YOUR PARTNER: Ballroom dance night at Kelly's Hotel, Rosslare, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne
TAKE YOUR PARTNER: Ballroom dance night at Kelly's Hotel, Rosslare, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Lucinda O'Sullivan

SINCE time immemorial, the movement of dance has fascinated, enthralled and even frightened at times. Around the world, there are courtship dances, rain dances, sword dances and war dances, not to mention the Maori Haka. Just as Spain enthralled the world with its flamenco dancing, who can forget the amazing impact that Riverdance has had around the world.

Legendary Hollywood dancers such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse had the world at their feet, while the BBC TV programme Come Dancing was so popular that it ran almost 50 years, from 1949 to 1998. This makes Strictly Come Dancing the relative new kid on the block, a mere 10 years on the go, but it has had a huge effect in getting people moving and shaking on the floor again.

The love of dance fascinates and, indeed, I too have been fascinated on a number of occasions, when staying at Kelly's Resort Hotel in Rosslare, watching people take to the dance floor in the evenings after dinner. You have the regular people where it's 'one two and a hoosh' but there are always a few really stylish and dedicated performers displaying their steps.

Dancing has proved so popular at Kelly's that, twice a year, the hotel runs a course in ballroom dancing with Flora Millar, one of Ireland's best known and experienced ballroom dancing teachers. Indeed she is the recipient of the Carl Alan Award, the Oscar of ballroom dancing. On her recent course there, I watched Flora guide beginners and more advanced dancers through the movements of the waltz (a scandalous dance in its day because you got to hold your partner), the foxtrot, tango, quickstep, rock & roll, cha cha cha, mambo and salsa.

Flora Millar qualified as a dance teacher when she was just 19 years old. "I was attending dance classes held by the late Paddy and Eileen Jenett in Marino and they were given the contract to supply a formation dance team for Butlin's holiday camp in Mosney. I also did stage dancing and ballroom dancing and danced at the famous Queen's Theatre in Pearse Street which closed in 1969," says Flora.

"When Strictly Come Dancing started, there was a huge revival and interest because everybody thought they could do what they saw on Strictly. However, that is not always the case and some people were disappointed to an extent. Strictly sends out the wrong message at times. Obviously on SCD, everybody starts with a professional partner and if you're well trained, you could lead a lamppost into dancing. It's all to do with technique and that's how all of these celebrities look so good, because of the professional partners. They have the top coaches in the world. It did bring a lot of people into the studios all right, but then it waned a bit," says Flora.

"However, there is an awful lot of ballroom dancing going on around the country. I always say to couples who come for classes, it's really the only skill you can do together. If you are playing golf or cards you are playing against each other. If you are dancing, you are together, trying to work it out together," she adds.

Fedelma Butler and Rory O'Donnell from Dublin had their first dance lesson 14 years ago after a visit to Kelly's. "We were staying here and dancing after a fashion. I had remarked to Fedelma I would love to know how to start off properly, because normally with a different dance you would be half way around the floor before you'd end up in time! A couple of weeks later, we got a leaflet in the door from Newpark offering ballroom dancing. We ended up going one night a week and gradually got hooked, coming here regularly as well. At the moment, on a good week, we dance four nights," says Rory.

"We have a standing joke, 'you'll be all right when the music starts'. It's true, because there are times when you are really tired and think you couldn't dance, couldn't put one foot in front of the other; the music starts and suddenly you have all this new energy and you are away. It's such a perfect way for emptying your mind; it's a great stress buster because when you are dancing, you just don't think about anything else. So, apart from the physical benefits..." says Fedelma.

Ann and Gerry Pounch have been attending dancing classes with Flora Millar for four years. "I'm only sorry we didn't take it up earlier", says Gerry.

"We were regular visitors here at Kelly's and one evening Flora asked us to join her on the floor. Flora breaks down the dance and makes it very easy to learn," says Ann.

"It's great to be able to come here, have dinner and be able to get up and dance – you feel very good after it," Gerry adds.

Denis and Patricia Tipple from Terenure in Dublin started dancing seriously 10 years ago. "We were what was called 'Flora's hobby dancers'. We never took part in competitions. We just went to learn dancing because we love it. We also do line dancing," says Patricia. "We go to the South County Dublin Senior Citizens Club in the Iveagh Grounds on Crumlin Road where they do line dancing in the mornings."

"It's great for co-ordination," says Denis, "and keeps all the limbs in working order."

There is a lot of romance out there still and dancing is a great way to meet people. "My own daughter met her husband at my dancing classes," says Flora.

Flora's 10-week dance courses commence in September and January in the Monk Gibbon Hall on Foster Avenue, Stillorgan, costing €120. Ph: (01) 288-8455. www.kellys.ie

Food

And so to food. The new Terenure Village Market kicked off last Sunday, outside Gerry Caffrey Motors on Terenure Road North. The market committee is made up of a small number of locals who volunteered their time to set up this market "to try revive Terenure and its local businesses and make Terenure into a destination," says committee member Karen Frost

The inaugural day had great local support, with stalls including crafts, upcycled furniture, books and food from the Real Olive Co, Kanum Thai, Grub Hub, Lough Owel organic burgers, the Corner Bakery, Mr Crepe, De-Lish donuts, Saltpeter coffee van and Jennifer Juices among others. Some of the food stalls were so busy they had to bring in extra deliveries to cope with the demand. The market will take place every first and third Sunday of the month, 11-4 pm. www.terenure2030.com

Down in Kinsale, a record attendance of over 1,000 people turned up to see the fourth All Ireland Chowder Cook Off with chefs competing from all over Ireland. The 32 chowders in the final were diverse with variations including a roast red pepper base, queen scallops, lobster, smoked mackerel, mussels, clams and homemade ravioli. Danny Fitzpatrick, chef owner of Fitzpatrick's Bar & Restaurant in Dundalk, took first place and was crowned All Ireland Chowder Champion 2014. Second place went to Eugene Callaghan of Kelly's Resort Hotel in Rosslare, and third place to Damien Clarke of Ryan's Bar, Navan, Co Meath. www.kinsalerestaurants.com

Finally, Fergus Henderson, famous for 'nose to tail' eating, received the 2014 The Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award as part of The World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the late Nineties, Henderson has proved that major obstacles can be overcome. A founding partner of St John restaurant group, in 2012 he released his third book, The Complete Nose to Tail.

A most deserved honour. www.theworlds50best.com

Sunday Independent

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