The British don't simply enjoy ballroom dancing -- they carry on a steamy, tender, giddy love affair with it.
It's an affair that's been going on for years. The Brits kept dancing to Big Band music even as the bombs were falling during World War II. And today, in the little town of Horsham in the English countryside, the music hasn't stopped.
In a drill hall where American GIs used to cut a rug with the local girls, dozens of couples from all over England recently participated in a ballroom dancing contest.
Better Than Sex?
The couples come from every walk of life. Terri Bachman is a housekeeper who lives just south of London. She answered an ad for a dance partner on a Web site and found Glenn Armstrong, who drives a cab in town 200 miles away and dreams of the perfect performance.
"When it's done right, there's nothing better," Glenn said. "There are no words to describe the feeling you get from that. ... I can only say it's better than sex."
His partner, Terri, laughed. "I'm gonna reserve judgment on that one," she said.
Also competing were Daryl and Patricia Leung, who waltzed down from Birmingham in Northern England. When Daryl is not doing rounds while dancing, he's doing rounds as a doctor -- his soft bedside manner a fine counterpoint to his crisp tango turns.
Patricia Leung, who teaches school in the inner city, shared a dressing room with an 11-year-old girl who competed with her brother. On this English dance floor, there was room for all ages -- from 11 up through 83.
Also competing were Mike and Pat Fortin. She sells dance shoes from a tiny room in their house. The couple met and fell in love at a dance party.
"It's the music for me," Pat said. "Once I hear the music I can't sit and watch, so to have a partner who dances makes my life absolutely wonderful. ... It's a hobby we do together. We're sharing something and that's a lot, really."
Sweet Taste of Victory
But love can taste even sweeter if you can drink it from a trophy cup, which is why many couples like Daryl and Patricia began practicing weeks in advance.
In the early rounds of the competition, Patricia and Daryl and Terri and Glenn advanced. Pat and Mike ran into a little shoe trouble.
"In one of the dances my feet stuck," said Pat. "These pattons, if you don't grease them, they stick."
As the contest wore on, through the foxtrot, the tango, the waltz and the quick step, only a few couples remained. After five hours, the Horsham Drill Hall dance contest finally drew to a graceful close, with the emcee announcing the results.
"An up and coming couple -- really putting the cat up against the pigeon here -- Glenn Armstrong and Terri Bachman," he said.
Armstrong and Bachman took third place.
And the first place winners? Daryl and Patricia Leung.
Though Pat and Mike Fortin never made it to this final round, they did not go home empty handed. In fact, they danced away winners in the 50 years and older category.
The next day, Pat was back selling dance shoes from her house; Glenn was back driving his cab, and Terri cleaning houses; Daryl was making his rounds, and Patricia returned to reading "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" to her students. Though the very next weekend, all of them would be slipping back into a very English fairy tale.
"We've had, since we've been dancing, a fantastic life," Pat said.