The Last Tango
A Jim Reeves melody ﬂoats out onto the lawn which is in itself an indication that the aerobics class is over. Fanwell Sawana has finished strutting his stuff with the women from the local insurance company and is now alone in the gym. His favourite tunes fill the room with voices and beats of a bygone era and I enter quietly, not wanting to disturb his moment of bliss.
The atmosphere is not what you would expect of a city gym, but the “big boys” lunch break is over and they are back at their desks. If we’re going to be absolutely honest, Fanwell is not your average aerobics instructor. Just the other side of 50, he puts most of the younger boys in the gym to shame. They are shocked and amazed by his agility and grace as he bounces around the floor to the various funky hits that emanate from his stereo. But Fanwell has not always been an “aerobics instructor extraordinaire”. His talents are derived from a distant past when dancing for him was a discipline full of grace, elegance and skill.
His dancing life started in 1973 in the Eastern Highlands town of Mutare. His first job ﬁrst saw him transferred to Marondera and then, in 1978, to the village of Umvukwes, now known as Mvurwi. As much as he loved the quiet village life, there was quite a serious problem: Mvurwi didn’t have a ballroom dancing club. Fanwell had been an active member of dance clubs in both Mutare and Marondera and his social life just wasn’t going to be the same.
One warm spring evening Fanwell found himself discussing village social life with the local school teacher and both decided that what Mvurwi needed was more social activities than the local beer hall and football club could offer. Ideas were thrown around, with Fanwell obviously rooting for dancing whilst the school teacher was convinced boxing would be more appropriate. Boxing could-not have been further from dancing in Fanwell’s mind, and his normally happy expression shadowed as he tried to understand why people would prefer to knock each other senseless than float, arms entwined, around a dance floor.
After several heated discussions Fanwell’s enthusiasm won over and in 1979 the Mvurwi Ballroom Dancing Club was founded with just three members. His passion for dancing drove him to fund-raise, market, organise and instruct the sport and on leaving the village, the club to which he had given birth boasted no less than 50 active members.
For the last six years Fanwell’s dancing days have been nothing but a fond memory. The relationship between dance partners, whether platonic or not, is a very special bond that is as established as the rhythm of the music to which they dance. When Fanwell and his partner split up, his dance career came to an end, although he says he would give anything to revive it. He has hinted to me more than once with a smile in his eyes that l could be his dance partner. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to glide over a polished floor to classic melodies with his passion and expertise for dancing to guide me
Unfortunately God did not create enough hours in the day for this mere mortal, but if spare time does become available I would count it a privilege to accompany him onto the floor and experience the grace and style that is dance sport.