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Well, Hellllooooo BEN! STRICTLY hots up

JoWeekOne1In this week’s entry, Jo discusses the celebrity’s improvements, and various methods for remembering your steps. She’s also saying a little prayer for another shirt-rip next week… when she’ll be in the audience. Take us with you, Jo!

I think I’m a rare breed of Strictly viewer who wasn’t happy that Ben Cohen exposed his more than spectacular chest to the nation on Saturday night’s show. Healthista’s very own editor was even moved to email me immediately after his performance, begging me to mention Ben in this week’s blog, solely so she could plaster a photo of said chest all over the site. But the reason I’m frustrated? It happened a week too early. Come this Saturday, I’ll be in the very lucky position of being at the live recording so, had that “explosion” of a paso doble been planned for this week, I would have witnessed those pecs in the flesh. I’ve tweeted Kristina and asked if she can cleverly choreograph some sort of shirt ripping section into their jive this week, but so far no response. I’ll have to make do with fancy footwork instead.


Definitely some great footwork there Ben.
Definitely some great footwork there Ben.
Strictly Come Dancing
Patrick and Anya’s Spooky Quickstep

In fact, other than THE chest, it was fancy footwork that impressed me this weekend, most notably in Patrick and Anya’s quickstep. The speed and complexity of some sections of their dance was incredible to watch. And it was lovely to hear Patrick, once he was safe, saying that what made the difference for him this week was that he “loved it”. There was a step they did that I adored (sadly, I don’t know what it’s called) but I’ll be doing my best to describe it to Maxine next week and asking if she can add it to our repertoire. For an amateur dancer like me, it’s lovely to be able to see a step that we haven’t learnt, but that looks achievable for someone at my level of dance skill, and to aim to nail it. Strictly inspiration!

Strictly Come Dancing
Deborah Meaden, who left in Week 5

One celeb who clearly loved dancing was Deborah Meaden – it’s more than a week since she was voted out and I’m still not quite dealing with that fact. I saw myself in Deborah – going from absolutely nothing to falling head over (ballroom) heels in love with dancing and wishing she’d started it years earlier. It was so touching to hear that her husband had been secretly taking ballroom lessons while she’d been rehearsing so that they can now learn together. I, for one, really do want that dancing Dragon to “Keeeeeep dancing!”

At this stage in the series, the voting reflects just how much some viewers see Strictly as an entertainment programme while others consider it a dancing competition. Yes, personalities play a part, too, and I’m guilty of having favourites like everyone else, but the dancing always comes first with me, as does showing improvement, week on week.

Strictly Come Dancing
Fiona and Anton were much improved this week

Saying goodbye to Tony Jacklin in the first week of the elimination shows did nothing to back my cause that anyone, regardless of age, size or shape can dance. Losing two of the three older women on the show has been a shame, too – Vanessa in week three and Deborah in week five. Fiona Fullerton has a lot to prove for women of a certain age, now.

Fiona has struggled with remembering her steps, blaming nerves in the early weeks, but despite disappointing comments from the judges about her Charleston last week (Anton has since tweeted that he felt they were undermarked), the former Bond girl seems to be relaxing into it now and not missing a step.

It’s thought that learning to dance can actually help stave off dementia. A recent study from the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre places ballroom dancing in its top 10 dementia-preventing lifestyle changes, because, according to the researchers “having to remember the steps boosts brain function.”

Starting the foxtrot
Jo and Gavin starting the foxtrot

In our class alone, several couples have varying methods of remembering the steps from week to week. One couple go home and immediately write down their respective steps; another like to film Maxine and her co-teachers demonstrating the routine on their phone, so they can play back how it should be done and attempt to copy; Gav and I sometimes get straight in the door and practice what we’ve just learnt for another 10 or so minutes, trying to get the steps lodged in our memory. I’m not sure it always works though… when we tackled foxtrot last week for the first time in a while, I’m embarrassed to admit I still had to check which foot I’m meant to start on!

Jo with her dad dancing at family wedding
Jo with her dad dancing at family wedding

As well as benefitting memory, dancing has also been shown to be hugely beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire have shown that when people with Parkinson’s dance an improvement is shown in their balance, coordination and walking. My dad, who has Parkinson’s, once described one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s as ‘like walking with a suit of armour on’. He has a tremor in his right arm and his right foot can sometimes drag, but when he dances the tremor stops (he says the same happens when he’s gardening; another passion, and form of exercise, for him).

And finally, this week, the proof is in the pudding (or should I say the paso) that dancing really is a good form of exercise. Mark Benton, who in his own words described himself as “47, overweight, sweaty, with a dodgy knee and an aching back,” has revealed that he’s now lost two stone in weight. In my humble opinion, Mark dances beautifully and I’m thrilled that he’s not (always) made to be the comedy dancer by his pro Iveta. Their waltz in week five being a perfect example of that.

Strictly Come Dancing
Spaceman Mark Benton and partner Iveta

Their training schedule is more full-on than most of us could manage – Mark does eight hours a day, for four days a week – and, of his rehearsals, he said: ‘I walk in looking ok but five seconds later I’m just sweat.’ But his advice? ‘I would say to anybody, if you want to get fit, go and dance.’ I back him on that and to his ‘get fit’ I’d simply add ‘…and have fun.’

*Our lesson last week featured some of the slower dances – rumba and foxtrot. My Ki Armband showed I’d burned 100 calories in total, surprisingly not a significant amount less than previous weeks (124 and 140) when we danced the faster cha cha cha and jive.

Next week: Jo glams up and heads to Elstree studios


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