Maria Hennings Hunt
I was 33 when I had my first dance lesson - and I only really ever wanted to learn to Waltz!
That summer, I went on a week’s residential writing holiday - The Writers Summer School - where, apart from the courses, lectures and workshops on writing, they also offered ballroom dancing as part of the evening programme. One evening, I went along just to watch, but found myself being coaxed into ‘having a go’.
The rest of that evening was spent going from one awkward embrace to the next, as a succession of well meaning partners dragged me around the dance floor and tried to teach me how to Waltz. I was so terrible at it and very cross with myself for not being able to do it (especially as it looked so easy!), that when I got home, I vowed to learn how to do it properly.
So, that September, I enrolled in a ten week Ballroom & Latin beginner course at the world famous Spencer Dance Centre in SE London. When that finished, I signed up for the second stage ten week beginner course, and when that too finished, I bought myself a pair of Latin dance shoes and joined the intermediate class.
I danced on and off at Spencers for around three years and, although I loved dancing, I always found it hugely frustrating that there were very few decent male dancers around – which meant that I always seemed to end up either sitting out or dancing the men’s steps and I hate dancing man, so when Spencers started offering Line dance lessons, I was first in the queue.
In the mid 1990's when Line dancing first became popular, it was done exclusively to modern American Country music - which was already a passion of mine. Imagine that! Dancing all night to my favourite sort of music - no partner needed and no more dancing man - I was in Heaven!
I carried on with my Ballroom and Latin for a while, but eventually dropped it as Line dancing gradually took over my life. Clubs began springing up in church halls across the country and I would rush home from work, pull on a pair of jeans, my cowboy boots and don my hat, off to happily Boot Scoot away my evenings and weekends.
I visited Nashville several times and drove all over the UK in pursuit of my new hobby. Between 1995 and 1997 I’d be out almost every night of the week Line dancing somewhere - I even met my husband through my love of Country music and linedance.
It was during one of my many evenings out, that somebody asked somebody, who then asked me, if I knew anyone who would be interested in teaching, so I said, ‘Yes, me!’
The following week, there I was, on stage with a mic in my hand, teaching my first dance class.
That teaching job led to another and at one point I was teaching for three different clubs in SE London/Kent & Surrey as well as running workshops, doing displays and making TV appearances.
Many Saturdays were spent setting up promotional stands in shopping centres where I taught shoppers 'Twistem' and 'Electric Slide'. I've worn countless holes in my boots dancing on concrete, under marquees, on grass, in the rain and, along with Line Dance UK, I've hosted lots of Wild West evenings. Line dancing really was the most fun you could have with your boots on.
Dancing became more important to me than my 'proper' job, and so in 1999 partly due to a crazy early mid life crisis type event (if you want more details - it'll cost you several large glasses of wine and a couple of hours!) I decided to change my career from a director in a publishing company and support myself by wriring freelance as I trained to become a Dance Teacher.
I qualified with the IDTA (International Dance Teachers Association) whilst working with Dancewize - a dance education specialist, and together with a collegue I met whilst training, I decided to start my own dance school. 20 years on, DANCE Generation is now a successful and established dance school covering the South East London & NW Kent area.