Your holiday: Windsor
Ballroom dancing is definitely in our DNA!
Lying on my back, I stared up into the darkness above. White lights twinkled and spun overhead like shooting stars.
But I wasn’t outside stargazing...
It was 1978 and, aged 3, I was in my jimjams, lying across two comfy chairs inside the Willesden and District Old Time Dance Club in London.
The twinkling lights were courtesy of the glitter ball that rotated in time to the ballroom music.
As I struggled to stay awake, my mum Susanne pulled me onto her lap.
‘Did you dance too much?’ she asked. ‘No, Mummy,’ I said. For me, there’s no such thing as dancing too much.
Something most of my family would agree with.
You see, the reason 3-yearold me would attend the dance club every week, was because my family were ballroom mad!
Growing up, I learnt it had all started in 1944, when my grandparents met at a tea dance in London.
‘I was so nervous when I asked your grandma to dance, my palms went clammy,’ my grandad Arthur, now 94, would say with a chuckle.
Except, once he’d spun her across the floor, the nerves had melted away.
‘We fell in love on that dance floor,’ my grandma Patricia, now 90, always said.
They’d married soon after – and, in August 1947, my dad, Arthur Jnr, had come along.
At first, Dad wasn’t too keen when my grandparents had tried to get him waltzing and foxtrotting.
‘Dancing’s for girls,’ he would huff.
But when, in 1964, he’d spotted my mum Susanne, then 14, at one of the classes, he’d changed his mind!
And just like Grandma and Grandad, they’d fallen in love with one another – and with dancing. Whether tea dancing, ballroom, or Latin, over the years, my parents and grandparents loved getting togged up and
hitting the sprung dance floors.
They never turned professional, wouldn’t enter competitions.
They just loved to lose themselves in the music, the moment, and each other’s arms.
I came along in 1975, and was whisked around the dance floor – sandwiched between my waltzing parents – before I could walk!
I loved it when Dad or Grandad took me for a twirl.
I’d start the night in my prettiest dress, then be changed, yawning, into my pyjamas. And as my parents took it in turns to dance, I’d fall asleep to the sound of the cha-cha-cha, and the scent of beeswax polish.
No wonder, then, that I grew up to adore dancing.
When I was 12, I was thrilled to get my first pair of gold dancing shoes.
‘I look just like you and Grandma,’ I’d squealed to Mum.
All through school, then while I worked as a waitress, I’d ballroom dance in my spare time.
I always assumed I’d marry another dancer. But when I got together with my hubby Paul, I had to practically drag him onto the dance floor. ‘It’s not my thing,’ he said. Maybe he was intimidated. After all, by now my parents and grandparents had nearly 50 years’ dancing experience between them. And I wasn’t too bad myself!
Or maybe he just didn’t have the Riley genes.
Because when our son Ethan was born in 2002, I soon realised he had happy feet like me.
Not only had he enjoyed high-kicking in the womb, as soon as he was able to stand, he’d be dancing with the adults.
The whole family would still go dancing each week.
‘I’ll watch the coats!’ Paul would always joke, settling at a table with a pint.
I didn’t mind. Especially now I had my son to dance with.
I taught him everything I knew. By the time he was 10, he was wowing everyone.
‘He should compete,’ my dad said.
I agreed. I regretted not having competed when I was younger, but I’d never found a dance partner who was good enough.
‘If only I’d known someone who could dance like you!’ I joked to Ethan.
At 14, Ethan found a dancing partner and started competing. Sure enough, by May 2016, he was a finalist at the North West Masters Trophy at Stockport Town Hall.
The whole family was there cheering him on as he quickstepped and jived past us in his black trousers, white shirt and red tie.
He didn’t win, but I felt so proud of him.
I’d love to say my boy is going to be the next Brendan Cole or Anton du Beke, but he’s told us he wants to become a farmer!
As for me, these days, I teach ballroom dancing lessons, and my parents and grandparents are still dancing.
Grandma and Grandad recently celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary, and you couldn’t get them off the dance floor.
And the rest of us Rileys all plan to follow in their fancy footsteps!
Aged 12, I was thrilled to get my first pair of gold shoes
My grandparents dancing on their wedding day
Top toe-tappers Mum and Dad
Four generations Me and Ethan, my mum and dad, and Grandma and Grandad