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STRICTLY Dance Diaries Week 3

JoWeekOne1In this week’s Strictly Dance Diaries, Jo Willacy gets to try on an actual Strictly dress. Can you guess who it was previously worn by? 

My friends think I’m deranged. Deranged by dance. Admittedly, I now even buy soaps with a dancing theme and have a signed photograph of Len Goodman in my toilet so they do have a point. But, in fact, it’s dance that keeps me from going insane.

Len and tango soap pic 2
Even Jo’s bathroom has been Strictlyfied

Having cystic fibrosis is hard work. On a bad day, breathing is hard work. Every day, the treatments are hard work. There’s no let up. If I ever get complacent with my medication and treatments, I pay the price. A typical morning involves two hours of physically exhausting treatments before I can contemplate doing anything. There’s an hour of physiotherapy, four inhalers, two nebulised medications, blood sugars to be tested, not to mention the 20-odd pills I have to swallow – and that’s all before breakfast. At least 75 per cent of my time is taken up by CF and, the older I get, the less time I have for the ‘normal’ things in life.

But for 45 minutes every week, our dance lesson makes me feel normal. No, not normal. It makes me feel fantastic. Studies suggest that dancing boosts happiness levels more than other types of exercise – from my experience alone, I concur. Other than the odd bout of strenuous coughing, I’m like everyone else in our class: a would-be dancer. ‘Dancing is a joy,’ said Strictly head judge Len Goodman on Saturday and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Source : BBC Pictures
Abbey Clancy and partner Aljaz Skorjanec, Source : BBC Pictures

Many of my friends have a form of exercise they’re passionate about. It’s spinning for one (she’s at the gym at the crack of dawn most week days), circuit training for another (she hated all exercise until she found her current ultra-fit male instructors) and netball for another (she’s been energised re-learning a school sport she loved). The list goes on. But, for some reason, people find the fact that Gav and I ballroom dance quite amusing. Delve deeper, though, and a large handful of my girlfriends admit they’d actually love to try it. After all, ballroom has shifted its stuffy image (I mean, come on, there’s nothing stuffy about Artem and Strictly’s new boy Aljaz is there?)

Jo and Gav dancing the salsa at Jo's 40th
Jo and Gav dancing the salsa at Jo’s 40th

At my 40th birthday party last summer, we surprised my guests with a salsa lesson mid-party, taught by our teacher, Maxine. From just a 20 minute taster session, in what was a very unprofessional teaching setting (far too many cocktails consumed by most pupils), two couples came away wanting to learn to dance. They now attend one of Maxine’s beginners’ classes. One of those friends recently thanked me for introducing her and her husband to dancing: ‘We’re really enjoying learning something together….and we have great fun doing it. I always come away from the class smiling.’

Deborah Meaden and Robin Windsor
Deborah Meaden and Robin Windsor, Source : BBC Pictures

Strictly produces similar feelings. Even before the live shows, Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden tweeted, ‘…a very public hug and thanks to Robin Windsor who has brightened up my life, my feet, my smile, teaching me to dance’. And after week one, Susanna Reid admitted she’d been inspired by her BBC Breakfast News co-host and former contestant, Bill Turnbull: ‘I love the glow in Bill’s eyes when he talks about Strictly. Now I know and feel that glow myself. It’s utter magic.’

Vanessa Feltz and James Jordan performed their waltz on Saturday
Vanessa Feltz and James Jordan performed their waltz on Saturday, Source : BBC Pictures

Seeing the celebs fall in love with dance is one of the joys of Strictly for me. It happened to Vanessa Feltz last week. ‘She’s been taken over by dance,’ said presenter Tess Daly, as Vanessa left the ballroom floor after performing a graceful waltz that moved her to tears. ‘It feels amazing,’ said Vanessa. When she had come over tearful in rehearsals, her pro partner, James Jordan stated, ‘You see, I told you dance was powerful.’ He’s so right.

The costumes on Strictly play a big part in creating the amazing feeling for the celebs, and I was lucky enough to try on a stunning Strictly dress, created by the miraculous designers at DSI London. It was in preparation for my photo shoot with Prima magazine (November issue, out now) where I extol the virtues of dancing as a great relationship booster. I only wore the dress for a matter of minutes but slipping into it gave me visible goose bumps (no, I wasn’t cold) and I truly felt a million dollars (thanks, in part, to the interior leotard that held in every unwanted wobble). When I was asked to give a twirl, the way the skirt moved left me quite breathless – nothing to do with my CF, for once!

Jo DSI London 1


Jo DSI London 2

The dress was more than a tad long on me (I’m 5’1” at a push and in heels!) and when DSI London, who design all the costumes for Strictly, revealed who’d worn the dress on last year’s show, I couldn’t stop chuckling for days! You see, dance has the power to move you to tears and laughter. It really is a many-splendored thing.

*Place your bets now as to who wore the Strictly dress previously…. and I’ll reveal all in next week’s blog.

Jo’s tip of the week: Dress up to dance! Grab your most sparkly dress and don your heels. If you look good, you’re half way towards feeling good. Throw in some dancing and you’ll feel great…


Tell us on  Twitter @HealthistaTV, Facebook or in the comments below who you think wore the blue Strictly dress before Jo and you could win this Dress Up and Dance Kit. So get guessing.

possible giveaway

In next week’s Strictly Dance Diaries, Jo starts counting the calories burned in her dance lessons.

STRICTLY Dance Diaries Week 2

STRICTLY Dance Diaries Week 1



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