Slow-dancing has been banned by a primary school. Spoilsports, says ANNABELLE THORPE - junior discos were meant for innocent fumbles
It was 7.25pm - last dance at the school disco. I was resplendent in a powder-grey jumpsuit and burgundy ankle-warmers, topped off with a glitterbelt and badly applied blue eyeshadow. He wore beige slacks and a black shirt. Careless Whisper was on the turntable. When he took me in his arms I did what any self-respecting 12-year-old would do. Blushed furiously, giggled hysterically and trod on his feet, praying that my dad hadn't walked into school to find me.

Anyone who ever clambered into a ra-ra skirt, nicked their older brother's aftershave or promised their dad they'd be out on time, has fond memories of slow-dancing. Unfortunately, it's a feeling not shared by the governors at Denton Primary School in East Sussex, who have decided that slow dances have unacceptable sexual connotations, and have banned them from their school discos.

In an explanation that would not sound out of place from Mary Whitehouse, they have decreed that slow-dancing is "pseudo-adult" behaviour and potentially dangerous to their pupils.

Of course, those of us who have shuffled through the intense embarrassment that is the slow-dance will know that the last thing it can be accused of is rousing sexual passion. The feeling of a boy's (shaking) hands around your waist and a male shoulder on which to rest your chin (in order to be able to pull faces, giggle and blow kisses at your friends) was a memory to take home, write in your diary and dissect with your best friend under the comfort of your Wombles bedspread.

"The thing I remember about slow-dancing was being so much taller than all the boys," says Justine. "I never knew what to do with my hands - did I wrap my arms around their neck and clutch their face to my chest, or did I bend down onto their shoulders and hope that no one noticed that I had my bum sticking out or my knees bent?"

Slow-dancing belongs to kids - no self-respecting adult indulges in this sort of behaviour. Kids are curious about sex but, in my experience, quite self-regulating. For most of us, the odd slow-dance was as much as our hormones could consider in primary school; any kind of shirt unbuttoning was way off into the future, and the thought of someone grappling with your knicker elastic was a moral minefield. Sex itself was some vague, blurry thing miles away. Like France.

"The thrill of getting that close to a girl was almost unbearable," remembers Rob, grinning. "There would be all sorts of stirrings and feelings and it was all new. I spent most of my time trying to decide whether it was acceptable to let my hand actually touch a girl's bum, and almost dying with excitement at the prospect. I have to admit, though, that in my whole slow-dancing career, I never actually managed it."

In spite of the scare stories of teenage orgies, things seem pretty much the same for today's 10-year-olds. "There are some slow songs at discos," says 10-year-old Lisa, "and sometimes the boys come up and ask us to dance. I do say `yes' if it's a boy I'm friends with, but sometimes I feel a bit silly doing it. Me and my friends like dancing to fast songs more."

Clare, 27, admits to a schoolgirl relationship based entirely on slow- dancing - until commitments to the Brownies brought things to an end. "I went out with Darren for five months and all we did was hold hands, apart from at school discos, when we'd slow-dance. It was bizarre - when the song was over we didn't want to let go of each other, but we didn't know what else to do either."

While the governors of Denton School evidently feel that most kids do know what to do next (like diving behind the bike shed), parents of the children there feel differently - 60 of them have so far signed a petition to reverse the decision. And one can't help but wonder what the bewildered mites at Denton School think about all this Victorian primness. For most of them, no doubt, the prospect of a slow-dance to end the night is exactly what it was for their parents - a bit of fun, a toe naively dipped in the murky waters of sexuality that they'll spend the next 50 years splashing about in.

Of course, that's not to say that every 10-year-old is a little innocent who thinks that "necking" is the quickest way to knock back his orange squash and impress his mates. There are always a few rakish jokers in the school pack but, as most go- getter schoolgirls would agree, there's still something fundamentally unsexy about 10-year-old boys.

"I remember particular smells from my slow-dancing days," says Diana, "the new, strange `boy' smells like hair gel, or their dad's aftershave. But most of all I remember how enthusiastic, and yet totally useless, they were at dancing. Boys would either dance like Frankenstein - arms outstretched, both hands on your shoulders - or fling themselves at you. It was rather like hugging a particularly agitated pneumatic drill - you'd just hang on for dear life and hope for the best."

Just like the good old days, then.