London's gay Scottish linedancers
Time Out takes to the dancefloor with London's gay Scottish linedancers
‘This is The Stag,’ says James commandingly, as we lock arms. With the other arm cocked in the air, fingers in the shape of a shadow-rabbit, James launches us on a mighty spin. He maintains eye contact the whole way through, which is rather disarming, but considering I’m the only straight girl in a room of 40 gay men, most of whom are wearing kilts and gearing up for two hours of Scottish dancing, I’d say I’m pretty composed.
The Gay Gordons have been meeting in a north London church hall weekly since 2005, brought together by James Pretlove and John Tyler. The fact that the Gay Gordon is the name of an old Scottish dance and this group are mostly, well, gay, is a perfect coincidence: ‘It’s heaven sent, really,’ beams a young kilt-wearer called Ben. The idea is simple: everyone is welcome (it’s straight-friendly) to learn basic steps , and according to the website, ‘long faces are discouraged’. However, my confidence buckles when I see John cueing up the stereo and preparing himself for the session. He is dressed in black and has immaculate poise – a cross between Lydia, the dance mistress from ‘Fame’, and Maggie Smith in ‘The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie’.
‘Everyone has natural apprehension about doing something new,’ says David, ‘you’re not sure if you’re going to end up looking a prize idiot.’
John divides the group into learners and experienced members. ‘People who know what they’re doing, pair up with a beginner,’ he instructs, and a bearded man with a resigned expression takes my hand. It’s like being picked last on sports day.
An accordion-led reel fires up, and the men at the top of the line start jigging with yips of delight. As the flinging draws nearer I get nervous, but when I start dancing, I also start laughing. It is complicated (you need to visualise the pattern as if you’re looking from above, Busby Berkeley-style, I later learn), but exhilarating.
‘You get spun around very fast sometimes!’ giggles Esther, the only other girl in the hall tonight, who was once told off at the Royal Scottish Dance Society for bowing instead of curtseying. ‘The first Gay Gordons I went to, everyone maintained there was a lesbian couple who always came, they just weren’t there that week – but they never turned up again, ha ha!’
The dancing is confusing at first, she says: ‘You don’t have any idea how the music works or when to turn but you just get it wrong and have a laugh. You don’t need to worry about being crap at it.’
And this is the modus operandi of the Gay Gordons. Miss your turn, spin when you like – just enjoy it. John explains that the big secret to dancing is to just let go.
‘Dancing is about fun and joy, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously,’ he says. ‘I’ve taught lots of straight people and they take longer to pick things up. I think that gay men can be more spontaneous.’
‘There is a very nice feeling of fellowship with all these people,’ nods regular Nicholas, ‘It’s not like going to a nightclub and you’re just a wallflower…’.
Malcolm discovered the Gordons through a listing in Time Out: ‘You go along to the pub and you can’t hear people, or join the gym and nobody speaks to you.’
‘And actually,’ adds Ben, ‘It’s nice to have a chance to dance with men. I came and immediately felt part of it, I was just having the time of my life!’
And of course, being a Gay Gordon means you can wear a kilt. Ronald is a shaven hunk from the Netherlands, tonight wearing his family tartan. ‘I like it better than a suit,’ he says matter-of-factly, ‘and a kilt is fun, it’s horny, it sticks out and it’s very comfortable. It doesn’t matter how cold it is outside.’ Sophie Harris
Full details from www.thegaygordons.org
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