"Between the ages of 8 and 11 years, I attended an Old Time Dancing School in Heckmondwike, and in doing so, I discovered dancing to be the hidden language of romance. Even in those early years, I would do whatever was necessary to get into a girl's good books, if I fancied ever making it into her arms. Though fancying at that young age never amounted to any more than the occasional peck on the cheek. Moving from Old Time Dancing to the Modern Waltz proved to be a masterstroke on my part, and I found the mere holding of a female's waist for a full three minutes as one glided around the floor, sufficient to stir my imagination and excite the senses of pulsating youth bursting to free himself from the straitjacket of preadolescence. Dancing taught me that in emotional terms, movement never lies or stands still. It resonates with the body's twists and turns and synchronizes in pulsation with the flow and ebb of a young love's heartbeat.
It was only after I started to learn the tango that I started to recognise that dancing is the most sensual means of movement known to man and woman. Indeed, some might even claim it to be sexual at its heart; a form of perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire!
Just as I was started to take the floor by storm and had won two medals for old time dancing before my twelfth birthday, I was run over by a wagon. I incurred extensive injuries, was in the hospital for almost a year and didn't walk again until I was well into my fourteenth year of life.
For the latter half of my hospitalisation at ' Batley General Hospital' (now a school), I slept in a veranda wing of the hospital with two other long-term patients. One was a seventeen-year-old lad who had Polio (a common condition in the 1950s that globally paralysed and killed half a million people yearly), and the other man had broken his back in a fall and would never walk again. Veranda patients were always the ones with more extensive injuries, and who was presumably assessed as being in need of more rest than the general run-of-the-mill everyday patient. Thus, the three star patients of the 'Veranda Wing' included two who would never walk again and one whose body would be left twisted and distorted, and destined to die much earlier than the normal lifespan.
Brian (the polio patient), should have been isolated in his own ward but stayed in the Veranda Wing of the hospital. He was separated from myself and Terry, (the patient with the broken back in a full plaster body cast from neck to waist) by the constant isolation of no more than a netted surround around his bed. The greatest privilege about being a Veranda patient was having our own television set, whereas the rest of the big ward had to share theirs between forty patients; which essentially meant that unless you were fit enough to get out of bed, you never saw it and only heard it from a distance!
One night, one of the night nurses asked if she could watch the television quietly at 9.00 pm. As pain kept me awake most nights, I had no objection. The nurse was a ballet fan and 'Swan Lake' was being performed by the great Margot Fonteyn de Arias on the twelve-inch black-and-white television screen.
I watched 'Swan Lake' with the young nurse at the side of my bed. She looked spellbound from start to finish. There was a poignancy about the whole episode, with my legs having been severely shattered, along with having incurred a spinal injury and a medical prognosis that I would never walk again. As the nurse watched the ballet dancers glide, pirouette and leap through the air, I started to cry, knowing that dancing would never be on my cards again.
As I watched the ballet dancing that night, I soon became enthralled by the intricacy of the movements, along with the agility and strength of the dancer's leg muscles. I thought that Margot's movement reflected all that was divine. I knew then, that dance was no less than the highest art form; an expression of the body that no words can ever describe and no emotion ever deny. It holds itself in perfect poise and posture and its beauty moves in curves and contours of the spirit.
When I look back on that night when the attractive young nurse sat beside my bedside and I now think about my love of dance, I sometimes wonder whether it was my infatuation with the nurse's presence or Forteyn's grace of movement that made the occasion one I've never forgotten.
I was in the hospital almost nine months and it wasn't until three years later I got movement of my lower body and legs back, just about that time that rock and roll entered the British scene. Because all movement of rock and roll was free and wild in its expression, I found that I was eventually able to take to the floor again without seeming to be out of step, as I learned to bop and gyrate the night away with the best of them. After meeting my wife Sheila in 2010, I renewed my interest in Rock and Roll, and for the following three years, we visited a Rock and Roll Club in Batley weekly. Sadly, gradual immobility started to creep back into my life and worsened after I contracted terminal blood cancer in early 2012. My ill-health depleted my energy levels and meant no more rock and roll for me. The spirit was willing to take to the floor but the flesh was weak. Even though I can no longer move my legs on the dance floor to the rhythm of the beat, my feet continue to tap each time the music plays. Also, since I commenced regular singing practice, I am slowly teaching my vocal cords to dance to my beat of life.
Though it is over sixty years now since I first saw Dame Margot perform Swan Lake, her perfect poise and grace of movement will never escape my mind until the day I die. A few times in my life since, I have been tempted to see Swan Lake performed by the finest of ballet companies, but haven't. I essentially feared that if I did, I would mar that special memory of 1954 in the quiet of night with a beautiful nurse at the side of my bed in the Veranda Wing of the old Batley Hospital. "
Love and peace Bill xxx