A strictly brilliant experience

Strictly Learn to Dance participants

This time of year, I get a touch nostalgic. But it’s nothing to do with Christmas. Tis the season to watch Strictly Come Dancing. And that reminds me of the time when me and my very game hubby took part…

Cha cha cha

Cha cha cha. Image courtesy of andywallisphotography.co.uk

No, we are neither professional dancers nor celebrities. This was a brilliant version of the show, put together by Nottinghamshire Hospice to raise part of the £2m a year they need to keep running.

In return for raising some sponsorship money, we had 10 weeks of dance lessons. During these, we tried to learn two dances – the cha-cha-cha and the waltz, before going on to perform them in the Grand Final.

Lessons started out as a relaxed affair, with plenty of giggles as we tried to learn the basic steps for each dance standing in long lines of “boys” and “girls”. We eyed each other up, feeling a bit sniffy if someone appeared to have too much previous experience…

Things changed as the night of the final approached and we all began to get a little more fraught. An amazing sense of camaraderie broke out amongst the dancers. We were all potentially about to humiliate ourselves in front of 300 of our friends and families… And they’d each paid £10 to see the spectacle.

Most importantly the event raised £9000 for the hospice. And we’d had a brilliant time. I highly recommend this experience.

The preparations for the final made us feel like a million dollars. We got discounted spray tans from a local salon. Stylists did fantastic things to our hair before the show and came along to make changes between the two dances – all free of charge. The ballroom was dressed with swathes of purple fabric, and of course there was a glitter ball dangling from the ceiling. The dressing room was full of nervous giggles.

A local DJ who was being Brucie for the night introduced himself. Showtime came and we stood in a line waiting to go on. Everyone displaying their own particular reaction to nerves. But then the Strictly music started and we marched out onto the dance floor. The audience just roared. It was the most tremendous feeling – these people were obviously here to a) support our courage and b) have a good time whatever happened.

The disaaastrous waltz

Gritted teeth rather than a serene smile during the disaaastrous waltz. Image courtesy of andywallisphotography.co.uk

Just as well, as what followed for us was a bit of a Dance Disaaaaster. Our cha-cha came first, to “Swing on a Star”. We’d added a few moves to fit in with the words of the song, which went down well with the crowd. The three judges didn’t seem to have noticed my partner forgetting his steps part way through. They awarded us 21 points and we appeared joint third on the leader board at the halfway stage.

I was assured during the interval that there was absolutely no way that my husband would forget his steps for the waltz. Then he did. As we were “in hold” it really showed this time…

The judges ignored our friends stoically waving handmade “10” signs. We were slated. Our score was so abysmal that I’ve repressed all memory of it. Then the audience had the opportunity to vote. It was a little disappointing to see a friend of ours stuffing large amounts of votes into boxes for other couples. But I think he was being fair. And he had paid for them.

They were kind enough to only announce the couples who came in the top three, so we’ve no idea how badly we did. The glitterball trophy had worthy winners. Most importantly the event raised £9000 for the hospice. And we’d had a brilliant time. I have to highly recommend this experience. Though being trampled on by your partner’s Size 11s can test a relationship, we enjoyed learning something new together. It was a terrific way to raise money for charity. And our friends don’t seem to have forgotten the evening…

I met Anton du Bec a few months later and explained what we’d done. He said “but it won’t work if neither of you can dance”. Quite.

We took part in the first “Strictly Learn to Dance”, but the hospice are organising their seventh in Spring 2014. Details are here. I understand that other hospices around the country are organising their own versions, so you may well find one local to you. Or suggest it as a fantastic fundraising idea.

If you do want to take part, I would advise you to find a lithe young man to be your partner! One with a good memory. There are loads of tips in this blog. Remember you get less dance training that a celeb does in an average week on Strictly proper. So don’t expect to become a wonderful dancer, unless you have previous. Make it entertaining instead.

Strictly Learn to Dance participants

Our comrades. Image courtesy of andywallisphotography.co.uk