“You don’t have to hide in the car texting” – Sarah & John Aitchison

October 10, 2014 by Joo-Lee

Sarah and John run Shieldhall, a guesthouse near Wallington Hall. Set on 10 acres of beautiful Northumberland countryside, they live there with their 2 daughters, 12 chickens, 2 dogs and a cat. Sarah and John came to the Dance Doctor with 4 left feet (2 each) and were kind enough to share their experience of learning to swing dance with us.

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Sarah…

“Definitely do it, honestly, because nobody could be more nervous or shaky about it than I was. Even if you just try one lesson, you’ve got nothing to lose but so much to gain”

Sarah grew up in Shieldhall (which became a guesthouse when people kept calling in to ask if they did B&B) and until recently it was home to 4 generations of “fiery redheads”; Sarah’s grandmother, mother, herself and her 2 daughters. She says the last thing she wanted to do was run it but then she “got old” (she’s anything but), married, had children and decided it would be nice! She and John took over about 6 years ago.

As a child Sarah did Ballet and Scottish Country dancing but was made to feel like she couldn’t dance. The feeling of wanting to dance never really went away and now in her 30’s (I told you she wasn’t old), Sarah has decided to start learning again. Her aim is for herself and John to enjoy social dancing and be able to put music on and just dance.

It was quite simply a love of Swing dancing and music that drew Sarah to Lindy Jazz but on the first night she came to class, she hid in the car park and didn’t come in! That same night, she sent Joo-Lee a text and after one private lesson she was hooked, “it was like you had a little taste of what you could achieve. It made me think, maybe I’ve got the potential to learn to dance when all those years I thought I couldn’t”

Sarah’s fond of the funny memories, in particular John’s interpretation of the ‘Mess Around’! However, her best memory is dancing with Joo-Lee and “thinking, I got around the room, that feeling that I’m dancing. Sometimes it all goes to pot because suddenly you think, oh, I’m dancing! But it’s that feeling, they’re definitely the happiest memories”.

The most unexpected thing for Sarah has been the emotional side of learning to dance. She expected it to be a physical experience but at times has been in fits of giggles or tears, and felt both incredibly happy and sad. “It kind of affects all of you. It’s been revealing about myself, my personality, my confidence, my weaknesses and my strengths”.

After being told she had no rhythm as a child (I know, how mean is that), Sarah thought it was something she couldn’t learn, that people had natural rhythm and could just dance, or not dance. Now she thinks it’s about self-belief and that, with patience and a good teacher you can find your own rhythm and enjoy dancing. “You don’t have to hide in the car texting… I would say definitely go for it”.

Sarah is most proud of the fact that dancing has become a way of life for her, that it’s something she and John can do together and that she can now say ‘I go dancing’. She says it’s part of her routine and that if she is away for any length of time she misses it.

We talked a lot about Sarah’s fears of not belonging and standing out, “often what stops me from dancing is what I think. It’s not my feet, it’s my own fears and anxieties”. Despite it often being overwhelming and difficult, Sarah now feels she has “accepted the fear” and can “choose to override it” and enjoy herself. If you can get through the door it’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be”

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John…

“The advantage of Lindy Jazz is the fact that once you master a few dance moves what you can do is you can mix those moves together in tune with the music that’s been played and you can do it yourself”

John has worked as a Police Officer for 28 years. During this time he spent 7-years as a mounted policeman, learning to ride specifically for this reason. He finds his job rewarding but is looking forward to ‘retiring’ next year so he can focus on his other full time job, running Shieldhall with Sarah. John enjoys anything to do with the outdoors including cycling, walking and fishing.

As a couple, Sarah and John were looking for something they could do together. After considering a number of options they agreed on dancing and they’ve never looked back! John says they both enjoy it and get a lot out of it. Their aim is to feel confident and comfortable enough to dance the night away at this year’s ‘Snowball’.

John says Sarah identified Joo-Lee and Lindy Jazz as a possibility and the reason they’ve stuck with the ‘Dance Doctor’ is because she offered private lessons. At the time they didn’t feel comfortable joining a class but now, with the individual tuition they’ve received, their confidence is growing and they’re feeling happy and relaxed!

John’s favourite memory comes from when Joo-Lee was demonstrating how Sarah could pick up on signals and subtle movements from her lead, allowing her to dance without a set routine. He was fascinated to find he and Sarah could do this too, “We were literally dancing in synchrony. It was wonderful. We were dancing, I didn’t think we could but we were”. 

The most unexpected thing for John has been the “beneficial effect beyond just doing the dancing”. John says doing something that they share and enjoy together is “very positive and constructive” and has brought he and Sarah closer together, strengthening their relationship.

To John Swing Dancing isn’t as structured or restrictive as other forms of dance, “it’s more fluid and it’s certainly, I think, potentially more gratifying”. Although not easy, he says that by mastering a couple of basic steps you can really begin to enjoy dancing. Private lessons have helped to build his confidence and he would encourage others to try it.

John says he’s most proud that he and Sarah have found something they can share. He says, “life being life, you don’t necessarily have exactly the same interests so the biggest achievement for me, was finding something that we both genuinely enjoy and do together and that for me, that’s great, that’s it”.

The biggest challenge for John was, “fitting in dancing”. Although he says with the nature of their jobs they’re lucky enough to occasionally find time to themselves in the afternoon, between John’s shifts, Sarah’s guesthouse duties and the school run – where there’s a will there’s a way!

Do you have a problem with 2 left feet? Why not make an appointment with the Dance Doctor and see what she can prescribe for you! Visit the website for more information.


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