Fever Dance Studio in Preston leading the ballroom revival
PUBLISHED: 16:24 17 December 2011 | UPDATED: 19:56 20 February 2013
With Strictly Come Dancing back on television this month, Amanda Griffiths puts on her sparkly shoes and joins the big ballroom revival Photography by John Cocks
The nights may be closing in, but dont despair. At the end of this month sequins and sparkles will be back on our television screens as a new batch of celebrities sashay their way into our living rooms.
But if you think the celebs - at the time of writing roly-poly astrologer Russell Grant and One Show presenter Alex Jones are rumoured to be in this years line-up - make it look easy, then think again.
Stephen Holland runs Fever Dance Studio, a dance school in Preston, which had the honour of touring with the Strictly stars earlier this year. He, his wife Rachael and their business partner Jillian Donaldson invited me to put on my dancing shoes and visit them at their purpose-built studio on Mornington Road, where they put me through my paces.
The Fever team were invited on the tour when judge and choreographer Craig Revel Horwood decided they needed more formation dancers.
Fevers name came up as Stephen contacted the show six years ago and Strictly stars now visit his annual Evening of Dance event at Blackpool CocksTower and afterwards run workshops with the dance schools pupils.
I thought, wow! were on the Strictly Come Dancing tour, laughs Stephen. Its a world phenomenon and we were the only dance school in the UK and Ireland to take part. It was amazing to feel that out of everybody, we had that chance.
For many it was a logistical nightmare because they all have day jobs and needed to take time out to get to the dance school on time to catch the coach to the venues.
It was worth it though, says Jillian, who danced on the tour, trains the competitive teams and teaches at the dance school. It was hard work, but to step out in front of 14,000 people at the O2 arena was amazing!
Stephen adds: Dancing generally has become more popular because of the coverage its getting on television. It has started a revival because of its diversity. Ballroom and Latin saw an initial revival because of Strictly, but it never really went away.
Television has got its good points and bad points. It has revived interest but it does paint a picture that you can pick up the moves in five minutes.
What you dont see is the hours the celebrities put into it even before the show starts. On average they have 60 to 80 hours of training before the show starts. If you put that into the perspective of a dance school, basically one hour a week, thats over 12 months of training. Its very intense.
It certainly is. I met up with members of Fevers A Team, who performed on the Strictly tour, and they showed me just what is enatiled. Made up of 16 members, thats eight couples, they train together for three hours a week upping that to six hours when theyre preparing for a competition. Within five minutes Im heating up; trying to focus on what Im supposed to be doing with my feet. As I think Ive got my head round that my instructor spoils it by introducing arms into the mix. I lose it.
Back to basics and we gently reintroduce arms as my steps are getting quicker and more confident, eventually I get there (although my shapes probably still need some work) but Ive mastered a travelling hand-to-hand in the cha cha and think it best to bow out gracefully and let the group, who have been Double British Champions and performed at the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool two years ago, get back to their proper training.
I started dancing when I was ten, says Stephen. I would watch Come Dancing, my mum was always dancing and my next door neighbour said to me one day that we should give it a go, so we went along.
He lasted three weeks and Im still dancing. To be honest when I was younger it was more about the girls! In those days there werent many young boys taking part so I was surrounded by girls and the centre of attention.
Nowadays however, Stephen says theres a better mix. Over the years dancing becomes part of your life; it not only teaches you how to dance and move your body, but it gives you a kind of social etiquette and confidence. You only realise that in later life. Parents often say to me that their child is a different person in dance class.
It helps when applying for jobs too. It shows you can work as part of a team and can converse with other people.
Learning to dance teaches discipline and confidence as well as being good exercise and something socially fun to do.
If you dance as part of a couple youre commitment is to just one person, says Stephen. However, as part of a formation team if youve been out the night before and arent on the top of your game youre letting 15 other people plus the coach down.
So whats his advice for any prospective dancers out there? Just come along, he says. You wouldnt believe the amount of people who say they cant dance. People say they have two left feet and I say thats OK because I have two right ones - somewhere along the way well swap a left for a right!
See Fevers A team perform live at The Hilton in Manchester when they perform at the ballroom teams fundraiser, Sequins and Sparkles on October 29th. For more information log on to www.feverdancecompany.com or call 01772 703704.