Tribute to Eric Lashbrooke

By Jack Reavley

Thinking of the article Steve Powell posted recently in respect of the current quickstep, I thought it may be of use to remember one of the all time great exponents of that dance.. His name was Eric Lashbrooke and he was one of the youngest ever winners of the European and British Amateur Ballroom Championships… only 18 when he won the European…

His gift was of musicality and the ability to encompass the use of different types of rise and fall within the dance, coupled also to flashing dexterity of use of foot and ankle and the so-desirable asset of also being able to pause somewhat breathlessly prior to a scintillating series of crackerjacks or similar intonations…

I remember him so well dancing, for example, a chasse to centre in quickstep… then when he stepped outside the girl who was a beautiful dancer called Sheila Wilkinson, he used a toe with a low knee and then induced a top spin action turning of course to the left timed slow, quick, quick… he then stepped to the side with his left foot using a lovely softening of the knee and this induced a look of almost Fred Astaire with such subtlety as to mesmerise. He then developed to the use of step with his right foot outside the girl and used a lovely lowering onto the foot without allowing the heel to touch the floor which gave a softness of impression instantly and a bouncy feel which transmitted musicality beautifully… then a crackerjack action commenced outside partner to skilfully complete the task of ensuring everyone watch hardly anyone else but him…

He was one of the greatest exponents of quickstep ever and never appeared to be running round the floor. The intonations of his use of bounce and subtle flexion was simply mesmeric.

I can see him right now as I type frantically… attempting to keep my fingers up to speed with my mind… gosh what a dancer he was.

I hope my somewhat inadequate description has made those interested realise that there is no need to fly round, using three quicks on a natural turn etc etc… just to try to be impactive. I salute those past wondrous exponents of the dance. May I remind everyone that my book has just been published and is now available …. believe it or not but already I am being asked to write a follow on… can’t believe it… I must be mad do you not think? I feel sure many do… can’t help it. When my fingers start to type they seem unable to stop…. hope you can put up with me a little… go on sort out your quicksteps… try to use musicality and the subtlety of rise and fall to interpret what you hear in your ears… you may find yourself discovering a hoard of gold dust… Hope you can put up with my contribution.

As I was sitting today having a cuppa, my mind travelled back in time to the great Butlin Holiday Camp chamnpionships which were organised by those wonderful friends of dance Wiulfred and Barbara Orange.

Hundreds of couples and thousands of spectators… every night the two large ballrooms crowded out… one for the Old Time events and the other for the ballroom events. Fabulous panels of judges all steeped in dance… wonderfully talented competitors including all of the then Champions…

I used to do without the evening meal so I could be first in the queue for admittance to the ballroom when the doors reopened… got a front seat, then my then-girlfriend and now wife Anne would bring me a sandwich… lovely girl that she is….

In my mind I can see all the couples and for example Ken and Blanche Bateman who were grand finalists in the professional open ballroom championship… lovely understanding of technique and to this day Blanche has a viociferous opinion of ladies who do not use their feet well when they dance…. woe betide any of her former pupils who transgressed in any way the demands of foot and ankle use.

Blanche is now an elder stateswoman in dance and her enthusiasm and love of it all is wonderful… her opinions forthright and straight from the shoulder… she is steeped in dance and with her husband Ken appeared in so many great professional championship finals… They danced a tango oversway action to die for as Ken cracked in the change of body posture to emphasise the atmosphere of the dance.

  1. Do you know what happened to DESMOND ELLISON after he won the world champship in1959 .I knew his parents in the 1950s but didnt know what happened to him?!!!.

      1. I new your grand parents back in the 1950s. your grand mother ran a bed & breakfast from there house in boscombe.M y mother used to to corresponde with her .I have a photo of your father dancing with MAISE HARRISON , but did not know what happened to him after he won the worlds in 1959.

  2. I remember Eric Lashbrooke and Sheila Wilkinson very well I often wondered what became of them. I used to go dancing with them to the
    Hammer smith Palais and Lyceum
    Streatham wonderful dancers.

  3. On the website, someone is looking for the daughter of Wilfred Orange and Barbara Cartland. The daugther’s name is Susan.
    Could it be that Barbara Orange’s maiden name is Cartland and that you could help us find daughter Susan..?

    Thank you very much,

  4. Sheila Wilkinson was my first ever girlfriend. We both worked in Heywood Lancashire. We met at a dance school in Rochdale and started going out together, she was 16 and I was 17. we had dance lessons together. Then in sept 1948 I was called up to do my National Service in the army. We corresponded with each other weekly but she then wrote to say she had met someone else, a dancer, who must have been Eric. Happy memories.

  5. We danced in a novice
    Championship competion
    Judged by Eric Lashbrooke
    And Sheila and we won it i fanced with Iris Cox who later went on to own the Constance miilimgton Dance Acadamy thos was about 1953/4 so thank you Etic and Sheila RIP

  6. i was taught by eric lashbrooke and norma graves in there liverpool i was only about 12 to13 there club was of walton road in liverpool over burtons tailors i t was about 1957 or 1958 it was a momment 2 rember

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