friendship

Class Report: We try Charleston dancing (and love it).

Image: The Great Gatsby.

Thanks to a combination of long limbs, stiff movements and a slight lack of rhythm, I look completely ridiculous when I dance.

Generally, I limit my dancing to situations where nobody can see me: at home, in the dark (like at No Lights No Lycra), or at house parties where I’m with friends who are too drunk to pay attention. It’s a shame because I actually enjoy busting a move but my self-consciousness tends to take the wheel.

RELATED: Human Guinea Pig: We try “ecstatic dancing”.

Last week, however, I threw gawkiness to the wind and signed up for a beginners Charleston dance class.

This was partly because I enjoy anything 1920s-related, and partly because it was a one-off session, so if I was truly awful at it at least I’d never have to see those people again. Plus, it was only $14, so no huge financial loss.

This is me 'in da club' while everyone else is grinding sensually.

The class was organised by Andy and Jo of The Bluffer's Guide to Dancing, a Sydney-based duo who teach various old-school styles like Blues, Lindy Hop and Swing.

As explained on their Facebook page: "We’ve taken out all the fancy footwork and complicated confusing bits, and just left in the 'I’m looking totally awesome,' so you can bluff your way into looking like a genius on the dance floor." Excellent.

Now, I don't want to overstate things, but in Charleston I think I've finally found a dancing style where being tall and ungainly is not an immediate disadvantage. (Sorry, hip-hop, but it was never going to work out between us.) (Post continues after gallery.)

One of the first things Andy and Jo explained was that the Charleston is supposed to look a bit silly, with exuberant movements, animated facial expressions and moves that could only be described as completely bonkers.

RELATED: How to dance like Beyonce. (Read: Flawlessly)

ADVERTISEMENT

In fact, being subtle and restrained was discouraged — in its time, the dance was considered risqué because it was so out-there. I couldn't believe my luck. You mean, this is a dance where you're supposed to look kind of ridiculous? Sign me up!

I'll be using these moves on every dance floor I step on from now.

Within minutes of the class starting, it was clear everyone present was relishing the opportunity to cut shapes like an extra from The Great Gatsby.

We learned the basic Charleston steps (you know - step forward, step back) and gradually introduced some flair — jazz hands here, hip swings there, arms up in the air, etc.

What made this different from dance classes I've tried before was the 'cheese' factor — the dance looks best when it's paired with some OTT sass, swagger and big, enthusiastic gestures.

RELATED: 4 ways to squeeze exercise into your life when you just 'don't have time'.

There's a particularly amusing move called the 'Itch' that involves acting like you've been attacked by mozzies and trying to scratch all the bites in 4/4 time. The drama kid hidden deep inside me really dug that.

Things became slightly more complex towards the end of the session with actions like "The Washington Slide" and that classic hands-on-knees move we all like to trot out from time to time, which is actually far more complex than it looks.

Overall, though, being ungainly and generally quite uncoordinated didn't seem to stand in my way. In fact, according to Jo, hardly anyone is really unco — they're just too worried about making mistakes rather than enjoying the experience.

"I honestly believe that the more fun you're having and the less you worry about whether other people are watching, the better you dance," she says. Right on.

Here we are, dancing our hearts out. (Image supplied)

Although the class was a lot of fun, it was also a decent workout — all that footwork and lifting of arms and kicking builds up a sweat pretty quickly. We weren't even dancing to particularly fast music, so I can only imagine how exhausting it can be when you up the tempo.

In sum, the class was an absolute blast — everyone walked out grinning, which is a good sign — and I definitely encourage tentative dancers to investigate whether there are any 'retro' styles being taught in your area. Especially if the lessons take place in a bar where it's kind of dark and there are no mirrors to watch yourself in. I loved that.

RELATED: Fancy '20s hair how-to, no tricking braiding required.

Look, I don't think you can call me Josephine Baker (for those unacquainted, she's a famous dancer from the era) just yet — I didn't quite master it — but I'm certainly holding out for a Great Gatsby/Gangsters and Flappers-themed party so I can casually whip out my Charleston moves like it ain't no thing.

Mad Men's Pete and Trudy Campbell are Charleston masters

Have you ever tried a retro dance class? Did you enjoy it?

Hey, Sydney-siders: Tickets for The Bluffer's Guide to Dancing classes are sold through Laneway Learning - you can visit their website here. The next class will be on August 27, so keep your eyes peeled.