When Dancing was Fun




Long before the days of disco, rock and roll and the multitude of other gyrations that pass as rhythmic movement, dancing was regarded by a vast army of people as being one of the social graces. It was nice to master and fun to enjoy. Those were the times when dance halls abounded, from the luxurious ballrooms to church halls, the patter of countless feet gliding across the floor in time to the music of the band, not records, would send a shudder through the floorboards.

Swansea, like most large towns, was well represented in the world of dancing and the large establishments all had their resident 6 piece band and MC. ON most nights one could go dancing at the Mond, the Park, the Capitol, Mackworth Hotel, Patti Pavilion to name but a few, and, on really gala occasions, the Brangwyn Hall. At the latter venue, two of the major social flings involved the annual Hospital Ball and the Clyne Golf Club Ball. Needless to say, only the rich or social climbers attended, tickets generally costing one guinea or more. These were events the local press covered in depth. Numerous photographs of those attending were printed, and blow by blow accounts of details concerning dresses worn by the ladies. On such nights elegance held the stage and many people would gather outside the venue to witness the passing parade.

As for the other principal dance halls, they also had special nights when those commanding the respect of the town would be in attendance. Of particular attraction would be the combined whist drive and dance, the usual weekly charge amounting to two shillings and sixpence. But on the big nights, when the prizes would be substantial, the admission could rocket to ten shillings.

The Patti Pavilion was always popular, despite being away from the town centre. Dancing would take place from 7.30pm to 2.00am, except on Saturdays, when it ceased at 11.59pm. Admission charges were three shillings single, five and sixpence for a double, and, with late buses to all the outlying districts, the crowd would be substantial. Dancing afforded one of the few opportunities for men and women to meet in an unescorted atmosphere, plus the chance of dancing closely together. The dances would change with the mood – waltz (slow or fast), Valetta, St Bernard, quick step, slow foxtrot, tango, rumba, excuse me, palais glide, flirtation – there was always something for all, even those just learning to dance. Over-lording the proceedings, now and then inveigling some shy lady on to the floor, would be the master of ceremonies, complete with evening dress and white gloves. The artistry displayed by some of the dancers would make them the envy of those sitting out on the seats that ran around the ballroom. It was a time when the magic of Hollywood musical stars rubbed off on the common man, once on the maple sprung board, they too became stars in their own right.

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