Leading a merry dance

Dancing has always been close to Elaine C Smith's heart - now she is taking her passion to the streets of Glasgow.

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Elaine C Smith is taking her love of tea dancing to the streets
Elaine C Smith is taking her love of tea dancing to the streets

The actress and comedienne will be hosting tea dances at the Barrowland this weekend.

It is a part music, part community project and an official Culture 2014 event, devised by community group The East End Social.

The tea dance will feature the 16-piece Glasgow band That Swing Sensation, dance instructors, tea, cakes, guest vocalists "and enough quicksteps, foxtrots and waltzes to satisfy hipsters and the hip- replaced alike".

Elaine says: "My father was a great ballroom dancer. He took it up when he was 60 and until he died two years ago he danced four nights a week. And he loved it. My mother was also a great fan of the dancing.

"And as we know, ballroom dancing was so much part of Glasgow life."

She thinks people in Scotland are so keen on dancing because "we think we're Italian".

The star added: "I think we have a Latin soul. And I love the fact our national icon is not a general or a warmonger, he's a poet. That says a lot about who we are."

Elaine, who will be starring in Annie next year in a Scottish tour, adds; "And dancing is very sexual."

She was in Glasgow city centre yesterday, outside TGIs in Buchanan Street, microphone in hand, backing track lined up and belting out Michael Marra's heart-wrenching Mother Glasgow.

"I counted the money in my bucket and I made £85," she says with as much pride in her voice as she had ever revealed in her 30-year career.

"I was dead chuffed. And what was great was seeing the faces of the punters as they walked past, not knowing what to think."

What were they to think? The answer is Elaine's semi-impromptu appearance is to feature in an upcoming BBC Scotland documentary, I Belong To Glasgow.

It promises to offer real insight into the city, with Elaine looking at the role women have played in making the city great, examining the work of the likes of Govan Rent Strike leader Mary Barbour.

It is warming to discover Elaine, born in Lanarkshire, is looking to connect with the roots of her adoptive city.

"It is great to be able to front shows such as this. And it offers a chance to meet people, the characters who make up this city."

Rewinding on her BBC documentary stint, the Rab C Nesbitt star makes the point Glasgow has not always shone a light on its female icons in a way it should have.

"My voiceover starts; 'Glasgow; A city where men were made of steel. But if you think these men were hard you should see their mammies.'

"Do you know there are only three public statues of women in Glasgow? There's Queen Victoria, La Pasionaria on the Clyde and Lady Elder in Govan, which is inscribed Mrs John Elder.

"This documentary reveals a lot about the women of this city and although it is a macho city because of the shipbuilding, women are the backbone of it.

"There was also a great connection opportunity for me to go back to Govan because there is a big campaign on to get a statue erected of Mary Barbour."

Elaine will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August in an Alan Bissett play The Pure, The Dead And The Brilliant.

Meanwhile, she is excited about the weekend ahead. But she admits she could be seen running off without explanation.

"I may be called to the labour suite of the hospital," she says smiling. "My daughter Katie is due in the next two weeks, so if it all happens I'm off."

l The East End Social Tea Dances, Barrowlands, from 12.30, Saturday and Sunday. Also features McGinn Seeger & MacColl gig on Saturday night and a free ceilidh at the Barras Art & Design Centre on Sunday night.

brian.beacom@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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