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From Strictly Ballroom to the Elvis epic, my life in perfect step with Baz Luhrmann

Opinion

Together on the dance floor at last, Rebecca Levingston lived out a girlhood dream when she boogied with Baz Luhrmann at the launch of “Elvis”.

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It’s as close as I’ll ever come to dancing with Elvis…

I boogied with Baz Luhrmann at the Elvis movie premiere.

Perhaps he spied by my years of ballroom dancing training across the glittering dance floor?

Baz wore pink satin pants and an Elvis belt buckle topped with a black skivvy and string of pearls – you could tell he was ready to party. I wore all black sequins and now that I think about it, I reckon my love of sparkly things does come from 12 years of ballroom dancing.

I messaged my mum to ask why she enrolled my brother and I at a dancing school when I was six and he was eight. We lived at Bushland Beach on the outskirts of Townsville which in the 1980s was more dirt bikes and fishing than waltzing and cha-cha. It was also a good half hour drive away from the hall with wooden floor boards where we used to learn dance steps every Saturday.

Not quite Strictly Ballroom with the fake tan and fights but certainly a part of my childhood I’ll never forget. Waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep… rumba, samba, cha cha and jive. I can still remember the steps despite not strapping on ballroom shoes since I was 17 years old.

Funny the things you can’t unlearn from your childhood. Not that I’d want to.

Mum’s responded…

She tells me that she loved the Saturday night dances she grew up going to in North Queensland so that’s why she sent my brother and I to ballroom lessons.

“In country towns that was a very important way we met up with each other. Many people considered it was polite to accept being asked to dance by whoever asked (even if you didn’t know or like the person much).”

Interesting. Maybe that helped me in the metaphorical dance of life. Find your rhythm, feel the beat and go for it. You can learn to lead but it’s also good to know when to follow. I did both in my dance career. Mostly because there were never enough boys and I often played the male partner so that everyone got a go. I didn’t just walk in other people’s shoes I did the quickstep. A handy skill.

We danced in competitions around Queensland and filled a cabinet with trophies and memories. I loved the adrenaline of competing and never thought it was strange to tango through weekends as a teenager. Even when I’d smear vaseline on my teeth so my top lip wouldn’t get stuck from smiling throughout a long competitive session.

Hard to keep smiling when you’re puffing and trying to look like everything is perfectly fine. Ok that is a bit weird. Call me Tina Sparkle.

Maybe Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom was more accurate than I believed. I remember when it came out in 1992 and it felt too close to home to really embrace. Maybe it’s time to watch it again now that 30 years have passed.

Mum’s just messaged again…

“Don’t forget you competed at the 1988 Expo…”

How could I? The bicentennial ballroom spectacular! What a time to be on a dance floor. My Grandparents dressed up and drove to the Boondall Entertainment Centre to watch us jive alongside a bunch of other kids. Pretty sure we lost. I can still smell the hairspray. Endless diamantes and the thrill of dancing in the big city of Brisbane was intoxicating.

As Elvis would say, Hot Damn! I didn’t have blue suede shoes but I certainly had blue eyeshadow.

So thank you Baz, for giving me a ballroom moment on the dance floor at the premiere. And bravo for bringing Elvis Presley to life again. The movie is a swaggering ride through history cramming too much into one film that deserves to be three.

I wept at the end because the King of Rock n Roll gave the world so much swoon but he never got to live long enough to dance into his later years. He deserved that.

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