They’d peaked too soon, just as I’d predicted. It was almost midnight and the time was right, they said, to go home. I tried to persuade them to linger, but they insisted that they’d had enough. “You should have paced yourselves,” I thought, and regretfully waved them goodbye.
My three girlfriends and my husband had joined me for a night of clubbing at The Last Hurrah, and they’d jumped right in. Arriving just after 9pm, we had been among the first punters at the Ian Schrager-designed Edition Hotel in central London. Schrager is the guy who found fame as co-owner of Studio 54, the celebrated New York disco where the paparazzi buzzed in the late Seventies.
While I was trying to channel that particular vibe (picturing iconic luminaries such as Grace Jones and Bianca Jagger), my companions headed straight for the dancefloor. Watching them throw shapes, I told myself, “They’ll wear themselves out. This place doesn’t close till 3am.”
It’s all about the DJ
They certainly weren’t the only early adopters. The night may have been young but the place was rapidly filling up. It was a mixed crowd of some in their 30s but plenty of 50 and 60-somethings too. The latter kept their end up with flair, seemingly unfazed at the presence of relative youth.
Maybe it was the liberating effect of alcohol, or the confidence that comes with age, or could it have been the guest DJ? People my age remember Chris Sullivan from first time around, when he ran the Wag Club back in the Eighties. Watching him mix the soundtrack to our lives, I couldn’t help but remember being a carefree student with my future ahead of me. Ah, nostalgia…
The monthly event is billed as ‘a proper party for those old enough to know better’. It’s hosted by Sean Rowley, and has a music policy that ranges across soul, funk, reggae and disco. In other words: “Tunes inspiring the older generation to get back up on the good foot (slowly), and give it one last hurrah!”
It was only after my friends and husband had left the club that I found my own rhythm. With the beat reaching fever pitch and the hot crowd thronging, I pushed myself to the front so I could feel the music.
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the years – my love of a bassline. Shoving aside any grown-up worries about temporary hearing loss, I aimed for the speakers and went with the flow.
Did it feel like I was ‘mum dancing’? Did I worry about how I looked while doing what the lyrics instructed: “Throw your arms in the air, and wave ’em like you just don’t care”? No, it felt euphoric. There’s something about being part of a joyous crowd that lifts the spirits like nothing else.
I danced on my own and then with a couple of random men (who looked to be in their 30s), only coming to a stop when my high-heeled stilettoes rubbed blisters on my heels.
Walking along the hushed streets back to my hotel, I felt refreshed, even invigorated. “I love dancing,” I thought to myself. “So why don’t I do more of it?”
Is it a lack of inclusive places for people our age or do we become staid as we get older?
Retro ravers: where to go dancing over 50
Judging from a wide variety of dance opportunities out there, it’s not that we become boring at all. For instance, there’s been an almost 40 per cent rise in the numbers of so-called ‘retro ravers’ who go clubbing in hedonistic Ibiza, Magaluf and Ayia Napa.
We’re not only flocking abroad. We’re taking our pick from Butlins Big Weekends, club nights in hotels and halls in the suburbs and themed vintage nights, among others. I feed my dancing bug at salsa and zumba classes while others enjoy tango and ceroc.
The well-off dance at their private member’s clubs; for the rest of us, there’s the age-friendly silent disco phenomenon, as well as breakfast raves, gay, and world music clubs.
Many of us, of course, party at home, at birthday parties and at weddings. Local councils have got in on the act, too, with dance being acknowledged as good for the health. As part of its ageing well agenda, Bradford has a Baby Boomers club, while Manchester encourages its 50+ residents to My Generation.
At festivals, age doesn’t matter
Then there’s the festival circuit, which caters for all ages and preferences. Businessman Mike Ashton went to Wilderness, Oxfordshire, for the first time this summer. “A dozen of us went for the music, the craic, eating, drinking, all round good time,” he tells me.
“Did you dance?” I ask. “After a fashion, while listening to bands,” he replies, “There was clubbing in a valley that started at midnight and went on for hours. There must have been 5,000 people dancing down there, some of my friends among them.
“I sat on the edge and listened to the music, but didn’t join in. It’s not because of age – it’s just not my thing. Age isn’t an issue at festivals. Everyone’s so relaxed.”
Age is also immaterial to Julia Marcus, who works as an employment adviser. “I’ve always loved fashion and the music scene and you don’t give up on stuff you were culturally interested in just because you’re older,” she says.
“I celebrated my 53rd birthday at The Last Hurrah and my friends and I weren’t pretending to be young, picking up guys, or reliving our youth. Dance is about being in the moment, jumping around, and using your energy.”
Promoters such as Carl Hill tread a fine line catering for the older crowd. He runs Coffin Dodgers in London, which he describes as “fun, not naff, but inclusive and definitely not grab-a-granny”. The youngest punters are 28 (under-28s are banned) and the oldest 70, with senior citizens getting in free.
“I’m 40 myself,” says Carl, “and saw that older people still want to dance, but not surrounded by 18-year-olds.” The club has been going a year and is extremely popular.
“I’m no spring chicken myself!” says Sean Rowley, who runs The Last Hurrah, as well as playing sets all over the world. “I got a wake-up call when I did my back in after one too many late nights.” He’s 53, and the father of two young children. “Now I do yoga and generally look after myself.”
He also runs Guilty Pleasures, a hugely successful brand. “I don’t actually need to do The Last Hurrah, but it brings so much joy,” he says. “I get people hugging me and saying, ‘Thank you for this. Until now, I thought I’d finally hung up my raving shoes!’”
So we can dance; we just need to pace ourselves. The text I got from my girlfriend the following day confirmed this. “I had a great time, but I’m glad we didn’t get in too late. We sat up eating chocolate and watching TV, slept for a few hours, and then got up at 8am to go shopping in Camden.”
As for me, I’m already polishing up my ‘raving shoes’ and planning another grown-up night out.