The night of the jazz dance contest everyone from the neighbourhood gathered. The contest was held at the grand hall on Flashgrove Street and Miriam handled the catering and Egon and his brothers took care of the bar. The grand hall had clean toilets that you paid fifty cents to use and there was a large ballroom with white tiles along the perimeter and a wooden dancefloor in the middle. A chandelier hung in the centre of the dancefloor, high off the ceiling and when the high windows were left open you heard the shiny danglings from the light fitting chiming against one another

On the night of the jazz dance contest all that could be heard was the pump of music, the clack of dance shoes against the wood, happy conversation – it was the year’s highlight. Even Nomthi had come back for the show, which was during her university vac. She and Leanne found seats near the front, before the show started.

Leanne recognised one of the contestants from the Bright Star factory. The one who was always talking about practising. Leanne pointed her out to Nomthi. They were pleased  they had good seats. They could see the small indentations in the wooden floor from many a night of jazzing. The dancer from Bright Star walked with her partner, a young man Leanne also recognised from the factory. The woman wore a dress transparent as cellophane. It had round sequins, silver ones, and then the bump and darkness of her two large nipples beneath the light fabric. She was smiling in a way that made Leanne smile. And the young man was tall and his face looked strong. He held his partner’s  hand, the way all the male partners do, and joined the other nine couples as they climbed onto the centre stage.

The jazz dance contest was something beautiful. Everyone was usually tired all the time, working the chicken factory or the pig farm nearby, then drunk to dampen off life’s hurts – a dead mother, a love affair that ended too soon and painfully, a broken arm, a dead baby. But then applications would open for the dance and people would come alive, start rehearsing. Leanne took a sip from Nomthi’s cola.

The judges sat on one side of the dance floor, five of them:  two Bright Star managers and a board member, an elder from the community, and a local ballet, classical and modern dance teacher called Sheena. The music shook the air in the hall and the couples made swirls on the floor, the women’s skirts rising, the gold caps in their mouths giving a glint. The audience was caught in the rhythms of the steps, the frowns on the faces of the judges, the pulsing hips – so that the man who ran onto the stage and seized hold of a woman’s arm and dragged her took them all by surprise!

“Did I say you could go!?” he shouted many times. He pulled her and her dress couldn’t hold all of her body in and her breasts came out. Between each shout he punched her face, the Bright Star woman. Punched the jazz dance contest glow off her cheeks.


Tell us what you think: Who is this man and what do you think will eventually happen to him? What will happen to the woman he is beating?