Please forgive this very personal Blogpost today, written in gratitude for how my life has changed due to a chance visit at Constantia Nek a year ago today. La Parada at Constantia Nek has become THE home of dancing on Sunday evenings, not just for me but for hundreds of Capetonians too.
A year ago I was lunching with dear friend Mari Halliday, who has lived in London for a number of years, but who has been excellent in keeping in contact, having met her close to 30 years ago sailing on Sundays on Alfie’s yacht from the Royal Cape Yacht Club. With us at the lunch at Chapman’s Peak Hotel were local friends of Mari. I was the designated driver, and suggested to the three others that we stop at Constantia Nek so that I could show them the transformation of the building, which is Cape Town’s oldest restaurant. None of the three had ever been there, whilst I had first experienced it when I attended the launch function earlier in October.
As it was a Sunday afternoon, DJ René Tanguy was at La Parada, playing amazing music. I had never experienced DJ René, but had heard that he was the best DJ in the city. Our whole party reacted to the wonderful beat of the music, and instead of just a pop-in visit, we sat down and ordered wine! Not only the pop music as such but also the drumming as well as percussion added to this, by DJ René and his two assistants. One of our group asked me to dance, an excellent dancer, and he launched straight into Rock ‘n Roll, and we could not stop dancing. I was hooked!
At first I felt that I needed to go to the Sunday dancing with a friend, and many obliged initially, but I quickly experienced that most fellow dancers arrived alone, or in a group, so I let go of being self-conscious, and began to dance on my own, a first taste of letting go, and not being concerned about what others think. We dance to pop music from about 18h00 until 20h00, and even as late as 21h00, and I dance non-stop. DJ René sets up at 15h00 already, and plays other genres of music, until he plays the danceable music. At Constantia Nek he performs with Dave Talbot, a volunteer drummer, Lefty is on percussion and Luke is on drums too. DJ René and his team perform for six hours on average, and I admire him and his team for keeping us entertained and dancing non-stop until the evening is done.
I soon felt the effect of the dancing, which coincided with a weight loss that was happening by itself. Two to three hours of dancing per week became my weekly exercise, but also created the most tremendous feeling of well-being, leaving Constantia Nek exhilarated and on a high, ready for the week ahead. It has a meditative effect, in that I only focus on the enjoyment of the music and dancing to it, thinking of nothing else while I am there. I have met many (much younger) fellow dancers, some returning week after week like I do, and others just occasionally. Some very special friendships have been formed there.
I am paid the most wonderful compliments, a fitness trainer telling me last week that he would not have been able to achieve the figure change in the past ten months since we first met there as I have been able to through dancing, combined with more careful eating. I am told regularly that I am a ‘legend’, wearing my pearls, and singing along to almost all the songs which DJ René plays, adding to the dance enjoyment! I must have a grin and a look of happiness from ear to ear when I dance, as in the main photograph! I have been a loyal Kfm listener since the radio station started, and it plays in my car as well as on my iPad when I write, introducing me to the songs which DJ René plays too.
The young girls tell me that they would like to be like me one day – this still intrigues me, but I no longer question this. It was through their weekly feedback, that the question arose as to how I ‘do it’, that I received suggestions for a book about my transformation, initially intended for women of my age, to inspire then to enjoy their life, but it was the younger ones that suggested that they would like to learn how they get from their twenty-something stage to where I am now. When they ask me how old I am, I tell them that I feel 18 whilst dancing there. Even more exciting is dancing with the young men, being flattered by and flirted with, and featured in numerous selfies and videos. When fellow dancers see me elsewhere in Cape Town, they refer to me as the ‘dancing lady from La Parada’. I am introduced to their parents, as one would a young friend. I sometimes receive compliments from older patrons of the restaurant, in praising me on my stamina in dancing non-stop, which surprises me when I hear this, being so dance-fit after a year, and experiencing such enjoyment. I have no fear in opening the dance floor on my own, and within the same song others will join me on the dance floor, and then the stage is set!
I have encouraged many friends to join me at La Parada Constantia Nek, but no longer wait for them to arrive or organize them, as they know that I will be found dancing in the front row. I have met many lovely persons there, many whose names I know and others I don’t. Over the past year I have seen how dancing at La Parada is attracting the crowd, despite rain or bitterly cold temperatures in winter. With warming wine and tequilas, heaters, and the dancing, no one feels the cold.
As my love, passion, and dare I say obsession for dancing grew, so I went dancing elsewhere. I started ballroom dance classes, but as I have little opportunity to practice dancing this other than at the school, I stopped after the introductory classes. I have done a Tango Workshop at Temenos in McGregor, and will be doing another next weekend. Ultimately, I want to travel to Havana (now the title of my favourite song, which DJ René kindly added to his playlist) and to Buenos Aires, to attend dance schools there. I also danced at HQ on many a Friday evening, where DJ René played until the end of September, and now dance at La Parada Bree Street to which he has moved. He is there on the First Thursday of the month too. I know DJ René’s playlist very well by now, and know the beat of the music too, something I have learnt over the year. Whilst I was a little intimidated initially by the French DJ, I have got to know him as a dedicated musician creating enjoyment non-stop wherever he plays. All speculation that the DJ and I are connected in any way other than dancing, is just that, a question I am asked every week!
DJ René, La Parada Brand Manager Stuart Bailey, Constantia Nek owner Alex Müller, Harbour House Group founder Michael Townsend, and the La Parada Constantia Nek staff: thank you for looking after me, for the many many hours of fun and dancing, and for your kindness and friendship. ❤️
POSTSCRIPT 23/10: I had a lovely evening celebrating my first anniversary of dancing at La Parada Constantia Nek last night. I am very grateful to Kirsten Goss jewelers in the Silo District of the Waterfront, for loaning me an Insta Crown, to wear in celebration of this special day.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com Twitter: @Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram:@chris_ulmenstein