Struck by the jitterbug: Fancy an evening with a difference? If you like dancing, but hate night-clubs, then Le Roc is the place for you. Lyndsay Russell gets down in south London

A skinny man with balding hair and baggy trousers asked: 'Would you like to dance?' Confidently, he held out his hand to a gorgeous brunette. She was flattered and thrilled.

In a normal night-club, she may not even have given him a second glance. But here, Monday night in the town hall in Wandsworth, this man had a reputation. He was dynamite on the dance floor. The John Travolta of jive - the king of Le Roc.

If you love dancing but loathe the singles night-club scene, this place is nirvana. Le Roc? For those still living under one, it's a chic French mix of lindyhop, jitterbug, jive and rock and roll.

Realising how much the dance cult appealed to the disco-jaded thirtysomethings in the city, Francesca MacArthur, director of the Children Nationwide charity, has been running six-week dance courses for the last year. 'Initially open to friends of friends, with invites only by word of mouth, we've managed to attract a very select crowd.'

Certainly, the hours are perfect for the professional. Unlike most night-clubs, it starts at 7.45pm, and is finished by 10.30pm, leaving you rose-petal fresh for work.

So far, about 200 newcomers and regulars sign up for the course every couple of months, happily handing over pounds 30 to cover the six classes. Unlike pay-on-the-day dance studios, the commitment immediately creates the feeling of joining a club.

The only prerequisite is that you enjoy a twirl around the floor, with the added bonus that should you be unattached, it's a surefire way of meeting new folk in the 25-45 age bracket. 'Please stress we're not a singles club,' says Francesca. 'We've built up a fantastic clientele and they'd be mortified if people thought that.'

A singles haunt it is not. The environment is totally unthreatening for both sexes. But with so many members on their own, everyone knows there are excellent possibilities for romance.

It was time to find out. 'Take the hand of the person opposite you,' trilled Christine Keeble, a dance instructor. The hour-long beginners' class had just hoofed off to the bar, where they intended to kill an hour before the freestyle dancing at the end of the evening.

In their place stood lines of intermediate and advanced dancers, eyes focused on the stage as Christine demonstrated the 'Pretzel'. 'This manoeuvre takes the shape of one, as the man puts one hand behind his back, and you slip under the uplifted arm.'

Easy. I gave a self-assured smile to the nervous young man facing me, but somehow, my arms and legs ended in a bow around my neck. 'Try again,' encouraged Christine with compassion, 'then lead into the Swizzlestick, and follow that with the Hatchback.' Alas, I followed it with the Hunchback.

'Now continue by giving a firm Backhander . . . .' Fine. If this guy twists my arm one more time I'll be delighted to oblige. 'Now change partners - men move six girls down,' urged Christine. Looking down the line of men, quick mental arithmetic showed I was about to get the gentleman with the polo shirt and sleek blond hair. Could be worse. A lot worse. Our eyes locked, and he held out his palm. Suddenly, all amorous thoughts disappeared - the dreaded Sweaty Paw Syndrome.

'Now, let's try that routine again,' said Christine sweetly, 'adding a move called the Seducer. It's like the tango. Twist, turn, then boys, push out one knee. Girls, bend backwards. Lower . . . .'

Picking myself up off the floor, I slipped out for a quick breather. There, I stumbled across drama teacher Nick French and make-up artist Murray Ross-Eskell. An attractive couple, who like so many others had met through Le Roc. Nick enthused: 'The beauty of it is, you can dance with up to 15 girls a night. The only time you're refused is if the person is too tired.'

Murray agreed. 'There's absolutely no fear in asking a man either. All the girls do. Best thing is to suss out how good they are in the lesson part of the evening. Having danced with them once, it's easy to go over and invite them on the floor.'

As the man has to lead in Le Roc, is it harder for them to learn? 'I guess they do use their brain a bit more,' teased Murray, 'whereas ours just get mushed in the dizziness.' This happy twosome now dance their bobby-socks off three times a week on the general Le Roc circuit.

Male chatter at the bar went along the lines of: 'I find I can do a really good flick-twirl when I position my hand so,' and 'Have you tried the whirlygig? That sweepthrough is marvellous.' It could have been a golfer's convention.

Suddenly, a microphone announcement from the other room signalled the end of the lesson. 'So far, we've raised pounds 25,000 via Le Roc, and from 13 April, we'll be starting Latin American salsa classes,' said Francesca. 'Don't worry, it's not that really raunchy, sexy stuff . . . .' The audience sighed and booed. 'I didn't realise you wanted that,' she muttered, confused. With that, the freestyle section of the evening started, and there was a rush for the floor.

Unexpectedly, I was dragged into the melee by Roger, whose speciality is shocking Le Roc virgins. His control was so unbelievably strong, I was helplessly twirled upside- down and bounced off his hip as naturally as a chorus girl in Grease. It was breathtaking fun.

Afterwards, Christine, Queen of the Prom, came over to check for limb breakages. 'People are desperate to get back to partnership dancing. The twist blew us apart and we ended up with the lonely disco. You know, tribal dances round handbags. But typically, the French refused to let go of their ladies, and they evolved good old rock and roll into tight, stylish moves to suit a smaller club floor. Hence Le Roc.'

By now, the wooden floor was writhing with couples elegantly swirling in intricate knots. Sixties, Seventies and Eighties music - it seems you can dance Le Roc to anything, anywhere. 'It's really easy to learn,' encouraged Christine, 'and even if you're slow, nobody minds helping a beginner, just ask them.'

At that very moment, a stunningly attractive man walked past. 'I think I'd better go and dance,' I told Christine. Very worried about falling behind the rest of the class, I asked him if he could possibly show me the Seducer.

Children Nationwide Le Roc. Next course: Monday 11 April 7.45pm- 10.30pm Battersea Town Hall. For information & details of nationwide classes, telephone 071-928 2425.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

    £500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

    360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

    £18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

    Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

    SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

    £22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue