Jive’s Alive – and so am I!

150 150 Rob McGibbon

A few quick steps back to the Blog to let you know I’m still alive. People do worry. All is well. Indeed, I am all-a-jive.

After a week of brash, high volume showbiz ‘n’ media, exchanged over tepid Veuve Clicquot, cold canapes and tickling spit in my ears, I headed to groovier, more wholesome entertainment last Saturday: The Rivoli.

This was an impromptu, last minute call – often the best – and what a night to cherish. The Rivoli dance hall in Brockley is a proud relic of the 1950s, a fragile, time-warped shelter of crushed crimson velvet, flaking fake gold leaf and dust laden ceiling lanterns. But despite the delicate museum nature of its contents, the Rivoli has a strong, passionate beating heart and, on this night, an equally loud swing band.

These days, I would normally require a keg of beer with an oak aged barrel chaser of wine before I start dancing, but I was up there, doing my stuff on the smooth parquet after no more than a sip of Krononbourg (£2.30 a pint. Positively 1950s prices compared to the rip off Royal Borough bars, where it is, I think, £3.40). So, I got to jive with my mum, a couple of sisters and an aunt and another girl picked at random. What a hoot. And what a sweat. The ballroom is tantamount to a tropical gym with spinning and hopping people doing manic five minute interval training sessions. I caught one guy, clearly a dedicated dancer, changing into his third shirt of the night in the loo. “You can’t have too many,” he said sagely.

What you notice most at the Rivoli is the laughter and smiles. The people on the dance floor are a vision of grinning faces, as are those looking on. There is a huge age range – early 20s to 70s, maybe even 80s – and everyone seems bonded by a deep sense of nostalgic innocence and an over-riding quaintness. For a few hours, you are not exactly transported to a time that may have been better – when people, possibly, never had it so good – but you certainly feel happily disconnected, however fleetingly, from the claustrophobic complexities of digitalised life in the 21st century. The modest, threadbare room and simple bar erases all pretension: you can sip a cup of tea here with a bread roll, or tuck into champagne, it’s all fine; guys can ask a girl to dance without appearing to be on the pull. And girls say Yes – they even form a polite queue at one end of the floor. Imagine something similar in a posing modern club. Never.

The Rivoli has a definite, enduring magic. Thankfully, its owner turned down £4 million from McDonald’s to preserve it. Good on him, a modern hero. I was born a few hundred yards away and my mum and dad used to go there in the early ’60s. It was always cheerily pointed out during drives into town when we were kids. Now I have been and I’ve even jived there with mum. Very cool.

Maybe you should go, too. Take your mum. The Rivoli is a delightful departure from wherever you are in 2007. Go. Swing. Sweat. Smile.