Two years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be limbering up among standing lamps and practising my chasse capes while carefully curving around precariously balanced reading lights, all to the obvious bemusement of shop staff.
My latest foray into the world of ballroom dancing involved doing a paso doble demonstration among the soft furnishings of Peter Jones, as part of the celebrations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the first step taken in the iconic Sloane Square store’s very own ballroom.
Sadly, the ballroom is no longer, so a dance floor was laid down especially for the event. Unfortunately, this floor was of rather moderate size and sported three pillars holding up lights, which was rather problematic for all of the dancers performing – both students from Kensington Dance Studio (www.kensingtondancestudio.com) and two of the Strictly Come Dancing (www.strictlycomedancing.com) finalists, Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup.
An additional challenge for us, although probably not for the media-savvy Strictly couple, was the fierce attention that the event attracted, with spectators crowding around the floor and hanging over the balconies of the levels above. This was my first time swapping the relative security of a private dance space for a public performance, and I had Strictly fanatics of all ages and backgrounds to impress, as well as a number of intrigued Christmas shoppers.
Thankfully, my fear of being driven into a pillar in front of our keen audience (many of whom were sporting cameras) was not realised. My partner navigated the minute floor and its impediments extremely skilfully, and it was truly exhilarating to pull off our routine in the charged atmosphere. I even managed to maintain a serious paso face, despite catching sight of two of my school friends waving madly from the first-floor balcony.
It was very gratifying, after learning in the bubble of the studio for so many months, to come into contact with a wide variety of dance fans. Their enthusiastic feedback was meaningful given that these were perfect strangers, under no obligation to say anything nice to us, and it was fantastic to see people brought together by their passion for dance – a reminder of why many of us started in the first place.
However, despite the buzz of performing under such intense scrutiny, and on the same floor as dancers from the biggest entertainment show on TV, I must say that I am rather looking forward to getting ‘back to normal’. This Friday, we will be reprising our performance at the glamorous Christmas Stardust Ball (www.stardustball.co.uk) at Fulham Town Hall, where I hope that the audience will be just as receptive, but that the floor will be free of pillars…
Stardust Ball is a monthly series of dance nights held at the glamorous Grand Hall, Fulham Town Hall. The event features an introductory lesson, a night of social dancing on an impressive 21.3m x 13.5m floor, and cabaret demonstrations from professionals. The next Stardust Ball is on Friday, 19 December. For information on events and classes, telephone Mark Kendal on 07956 511074 or Melina Hamilton on 07951 742346, or visit www.stardustball.co.uk.
Kensington Dance Studio is run by Strictly Come Dancing Argentine tango choreographers Kele Baker and Ralf Schiller. For information on classes and workshops with Strictly pros at the studio, telephone Kele on 07970 599445 or Ralf on 07774 443627, or visit www.kensingtondancestudio.com.
Image credit: Kele Baker