Learn mambo and have a gay old time

GAY dance classes are to be launched in Edinburgh after instructors were inundated with men asking to be taught how to "follow" their partners on the dancefloor.

The Pink Mambo sessions have been organised at the prestigious Dance Base to teach more men - and women - the dance floor roles normally reserved for the opposite sex.

While women have been used to pairing up at dance nights for years to make up for a traditional shortfall of men, a string of male visitors to the Grassmarket centre have said they are missing out. Now instructors at the dance centre have organised the special classes with the aim of giving same-sex couples a chance to learn to dance together.

Instructors at the dance centre - who stressed the new classes were open to anyone regardless of their sexuality - said the classes would give people a chance to break the mould.

Fiona Blair, the instructor who will lead the Pink Mambo classes, said reversing the traditional gender roles often made for better dancing.

She said: "I think it is wonderful for men to follow and I think a lot of the time woman are stronger leaders. This will be a comfortable environment where it is acceptable for women to lead and men to follow.

"Quite often as well I find woman are better at leading because they have more rhythm."

The same-sex classes in the sexy Latin American dance are due to start next month.

Then women will be taught how to lead their partners in moves involving spinning and weaving patterns across the dance floor, while men will learn how to follow in their partners’ trail.

Mambo dancing - which originated in Puerto Rica and Cuba before moving to New York - is slower and gentler than salsa. It involves the dance partners "tying themselves up in knots" before unravelling and spinning. The idea of holding the special classes at the 6 million Dance Base - whose patron is Prince Charles - is that gay couples will feel more comfortable dancing with each other than they might in a traditional class.

Ms Blair said: "These classes are an opportunity for men to dance with other men as the norm.

"Some men are homophobic so these classes will offer a protective environment for same-sex dancing outside the homosexual community. Hopefully, the classes will help break the conventions as people understand them where woman have to dance with men."

The 32-year-old, who was taught to dance by celebrated mambo dancer Eddie Torres in New York, said she thought women had a lot to gain from the classes too, by learning new moves which they could use on nights out where there is a shortage of men.

Olivier Joly, Dance Base spokesman, added: "We have decided to introduce these classes because it was something different. Gay mambo and salsa dancing happens all over the world but there was a hole here in the Edinburgh market. However, I hope it doesn’t just appeal to gay people."

Tim Hopkins, of gay campaign group Equality Network spokesman, welcomed the new classes.

"I went to dance classes 20 years ago and they were extremely heterosexually orientated. There were certain rules for men and woman, which weren’t flexible and followed the stereotype that men lead and woman follow when dancing.

"I think these classes are a good thing because it will be a place where gay and lesbian people feel welcome. I also hope they will help breakdown the assumption that only opposite sexes should dance together."

The one-hour classes will be held on Thursdays at 8.30pm from April 24.


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