Halloween Hattering

I was tantalisingly close to a crowning moment of awesome yesterday, but it was just out of reach.

Me as the Mad HatterI was at a Halloween party at my dance studio, and naturally I’d dressed up. You may have noticed the photo. I was quite pleased, despite the trousers being, well, you know that recurring dream where you’re out in public in your pyjamas? That. Also I really liked the wig. I had no peripheral vision on the dancefloor, and I’ll probably need a bezoar removing, but come on. So I travelled over to the studio dressed as such, thinking ‘it’s the weekend before Halloween, so there’ll be plenty of people in costume’. No. It was just me. Which meant I won the Tube.

At the party there were vampires, corpse brides, pirates and generally lots of people finding excuses to wear cool hats, and we were quite the sight doing the Time Warp. After a while the hostess arrived: Karen Hardy, ex-Strictly winner and world-champion, straight from commentating on Strictly at the BBC, resplendent as Poison Ivy (Batman villains being an accidental theme), and in a larger wig than mine. And once the live band had finished she stepped forward and announced there’d be a prize for the best costume.

I hadn’t known there was a contest, so it was a double surprise when I was one of the three finalists. We were asked to stand in front of everyone: me, a Vampire, and Jack Sparrow. At first it seemed like the audience were going to pick their favourite, but Karen then said there was to be a dance-off. We were all to dance simultaneously to the music that had just been playing: Thriller.


If my life were a film, this would be basically perfect. In general, the thought of impromptu freestyling in front of lots of people is oh god I can’t even type it, but Thriller is obviously a different matter. I can do that. So, in theory: result.

But, back in the real world, I haven’t performed Thriller in three years. Give me ten minutes and I can probably bring it all back, but at the drop of a hat? Not so much. We’d actually gone over some of the initial steps earlier in the party, but halfway through the song, and a bit different from how I did it on the plinth, and not including the chorus, so I’m not quite sure how to start and then the music begins and right, it’s time to do something. So I’m all scary swims and zombie arms and standing at the front like I know what I’m doing. Then it’s the chorus, and I get trolled by muscle memory. I leap into the start-of-chorus position, because I’ve done the chorus hundreds of times and I know it starts with a leap and what comes next is…wait – what does come next? It’s a turn or something. I don’t know. Crap. So I, completely inexplicably, do some bullshit body-roll that I’m going to work very hard to pretend never happened, then step around being a zombie until the music ends. It is not quite what I had hoped for when I set off, but at least I kept moving. I have no idea what the others did, but I’m guessing the actually-correct moves we learnt earlier.

And now we’re being judged, Strictly-style, by Karen. Jack Sparrow gets a 6. Vampire gets a 7. I am told that I started out bold and confident, then ‘had a moment’, which I got through. This is one way of looking at it. I also get a 7. And it’s over to the audience to vote by applause.

Jack Sparrow steps forward. Gets applause. No way to judge, but it seems like a good amount of applause.

Vampire steps forward, and it is loud. Clearly he has done something right. Jack Sparrow and I exchange an oh-dear look.

So, just to finish things off, I step forward. And the room goes nuts. I am totally unprepared for this. I don’t really know what to do, but then I’m being presented with a statue of a skeleton holding his own head, which is obviously the best kind of statue.

All of which was a bit unexpected. Apparently someone filmed the dance-off. I’m not sure I could take it. When I first went to the studio I was all, right, these are all excellent dancers and very nice people and I am going to be dignified in front of them. Lulz. Still, I did enjoy it.

Might keep the wig.