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Last year my colleague Brian Auld entered Strictly Banbury which, as the name suggests, is a local dancing competition in the same vain as the hit BBC One Series, Strictly Come Dancing. Brian loved the experience, scooped the “Most Improved Dancer Award” and came back to the office as a raving advocate of the whole experience.
A year on, and spurred on by Brian’s enthusiastic badgering, Steven Neasham and I signed up for Strictly Bicester and Strictly Banbury respectively.
Along with seventeen other “Local Heroes” as we were encouragingly referred to I pitched up to Bannatynes in Banbury one Sunday afternoon where we were all paired up with an experienced dancer from the local branch of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire based Step by Step Dance School. My partner was the lovely (and extremely patient) Carol Copp, a medical secretary from a local doctors’ surgery. Over the next seven weeks we were coached by the wonderful Glenda Harper and Viv Rhymes (teachers at Step by Step) in two classic ballroom dances; the Jive and the American Smooth Waltz. Over the final three weeks we had a freestyle dance to choreograph and rehearse too.
I think it would be fair to say that I’m not a natural. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding the dance floor and whilst I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I was chorophobic, I do detest dancing. I can’t for the life of me remember why I said, “Yes,” but, it was probably a combination of constant cajoling from Brian and my colleagues in Client Services. It was a hard slog but the repetition of the steps over many hours of practice (thirty or so with Carol and, I guess, ten or so on my own in the bathroom) meant that, slowly (very slowly) I picked up the dances. Just as well as all that rehearsal culminated in a competition over two nights last weekend.
All of these shenanigans (as well as dancing, I stripped waxed my chest and endured a very public tanning session in the car park here at work) were to raise funds for local projects by two good causes, The Griffith’s Centre at Frank Wise School and the Royal National Institute for Blind People. As I write this Strictly Banbury has raised just shy of £10,000. My Virgin Money Giving Page is still open if you’d like to make a donation.
Ultimately I loved it. Despite the nerves, my natural inability and dodgy knees, I enjoyed the achievement enormously. The thrill of nailing two ballroom dances (to my surprise I reached the semi-finals of the competition on Sunday evening) and receiving four tens for our group dance “Crackers Maracas” outweighed the odd stumble and wrong footedness.
But as much as anything I’ve chanced upon a community of lovely people. From the fantastic members, teachers and dancers from Step by Step, to my fellow novices (some of whom I am sure must have been dancers in another life) all have been supportive, friendly and so positive I can’t wait for this evening’s social event to play catch-up with everyone and even to dance with them.
So, if you receive a call from Glenda, or notice the event being advertised in Oxford, Northampton, Brackley, Bicester or Banbury I would (like Brian before me) encourage you to “Go for it!” As for me, whilst I can’t repeat the experience, I can divulge that I have decided to carry on dancing as a Beginner at Step by Step on Wednesdays at the GF Club. From Dance Detester to Dance Devotee in just seven weeks.