It’s started – that Strictly fever is catching. In her second Strictly Dance Diaries, Jo along with husband Gav keeps up a quickstep, takes part in a Strictly sweepstake, and gives great advice for a dancing first-timer.
Kicking, flicking and toe- tapping our way through an energetic jive, just 24 hours before the start of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, Gav and I were officially being ‘Strictlyfied’. Come late September, Maxine, our fab-u-lous (go on, you know you want to… say it Craig Revel Horwood-style) dance teacher, goes all glitzy on us, insisting our lessons have an extra sprinkling of Strictly-style sparkle. A quickstep routine we’ve recently learnt gets added wow factor with the inclusion of a nifty little jumping section. It’s actually quite simple and, I hope, looks quite clever, but for some reason it makes every single one of us laugh out loud every time we do it (even Maxine, as she watches on, so perhaps it doesn’t look quite as polished as it should just yet). Did I mention the surprise health benefit that dancing brings? The need for super-toned pelvic floor muscles, tighter than James Jordan’s shirt. Without them, dancing and laughing would be a dis-ahhh-ster (stop it Craig!). Having cystic fibrosis also puts mammoth strain on the pelvic floor muscles: forget childbirth, aggressive coughing for 40-odd years causes these muscles to weaken significantly. I was never religious with these exercises previously, but the desire to dance – and laugh with it – has made them far more appealing. Anyway, I digress.
With Strictly on our minds, our dance class began with our annual sweepstake – two quid per couple to pick a Strictly pairing from the hat. Gav allowed me the honour – I delved deep and pulled out Kristina Rihanoff and Ben Cohen, the self-professed ‘artic lorry’ of a sportsman – or, as Len refers to him, ‘Big Ben. Ding dong!’
There’s irony in picking out Ben, as it was watching a former hunk of a sportsman that finally persuaded Gav it was ok to learn to dance. Back in 2005, when cricketer Darren Gough started on the show with no dance experience then went on to win it, my sport-obsessed husband, whose job involves working with football apprentices, began to accept that supposed ‘macho’ men could dance. Having said that, it still took me another five years to actually get Gav on the dance floor – he wasn’t keen on signing up, and paying upfront, for an entire half term of classes when he had no idea if he’d like it. I could see the logic in that, but when I eventually found Apton Dance Studio classes, where you pay on the door each week, and with the venue a five minute walk from our house, he couldn’t refuse any longer.
I shall never forget the look of complete and utter terror on Gav’s face during the initial few minutes of our first class. The fear was fleeting though, as soon as the challenge of getting it right kicked in, followed finally by a rush of endorphins after the class, combined with a huge sense of achievement. And, glued to the Strictly screen as I was last weekend, I could see every single one of those emotions in the celebs’ faces as they took to the floor. But after they’d danced however it had gone, they all clearly shared one feeling: the buzz you get from dancing.
The jives swung it for me last weekend. BBC breakfast presenter Susanna Reid’s passion and Casualty star Patrick Robinson’s energy were electrifying in equal measures. Susanna shone; Patrick was pumping. Not to mention the fact that Patrick danced to Bruno Mars’ Runaway Baby, a song Gav and I had learnt a fantastic jive to on one of our annual dance weekends. It’s surprising the thrill you feel when you see a consummate pro dancing to a tune you’ve previously fumbled your way through!
And if you were in any doubt as to whether ballroom dancing was a good form of exercise, watch the show again on iplayer and note just how puffed both celebs were after their dances. Enough said. Patrick’s pro partner, Anya Garnis, one of the 2013 newbies, describes the jive as a “very demanding dance, with a lot of twists and a lot of kicks…” Indeed, 30 mintues of jiving can burn around 185 calories*. Muffin-top be gone. Toned calves and tight buttocks here we come.
The early shows of Strictly have a particular charm for me. They induce a lot of shouting at the screen. Not abuse at Craig for his damning comments. Instead, a steady stream of step-spotting: Gav and I unwittingly compete with one another at who can first recognise a step that we do. The opening routine on Friday night, from Ola Jordan and Hollyoaks actor Ashley Taylor Dawson, led to a blasé, ‘They’re doing loads of what we do,’ comment from Gav, as he – in a less than blasé fashion – ogled Ola’s somewhat pert rear end. (Note to self: more jiving needed to achieve same look!)
Jo’s tip of the week: If you’re in the early stages of learning to dance, do as Ola did with her celeb pupil Ashley and ask your teacher to use your phone and film you dancing. You rarely get to see yourself dance, but having a video to look at will show you what needs work – and what looks fab!
*This is an approximate guide. Exact calorie loss depends on each individual.
Read more about how Jo got Gav on the dancefloor in the November issue of Prima (www.allaboutyou.com) on sale October 3rd.
In next week’s Strictly Dance Diaries, Jo tries on a real true-life Strictly dress!
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