Nearly Come Dancing at Almondbury Methodist Church
Almondbury's Nearly Come Dancing

For 12 weeks, Paul F (a former Come Dancing medal winner) has taught nine couples, four ballroom dances. At the end of the 12 weeks intensive Sunday night training, our dancing stars strutted their stuff at the Almondbury's Nearly Come Dancing gala dance night on the 8th November 2008.

Helen P, one of our dancing stars, has taken a time-out from dance practice to bring you all up to date with the goings-on at the weekly dance lessons.

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Week 1

Eight couples gathered in the Wesley Centre on Sunday 3rd August for their first dancing lesson. Some people brought two left feet with them but our teacher, Paul, was certain that he could teach even Andy and I to strut our stuff!

We started with the most easy of ballroom dances (allegedly!) - the Waltz. A nice slow dance which, only requiring us to count to three, would seem to be a doddle! Some of our couples mastered the Waltz in our first lesson (to be honest I have a sneaking suspicion they had done it before!), while others (including my husband and I) could only manage straight lines and circles!

Our first lesson was definitely fun and good for a laugh - we’ll certainly come again next week. Andy and I managed a quick half hour Waltz practise at work on Friday lunch time in preparation for our second lesson this Sunday!

Week 2

We were a few couples short this week as some were at our Church’s annual weekend away at Lindisfarne. However, those of us left had a great evening mastering our moves and generally waltzing around in the Wesley Centre.

Anne and Selwyn joined us this week and soon caught up with the rest of us, although that wouldn't have been difficult (though I can only speak for myself!).

Andy and I finally mastered turns and, get this, reverse turns! Paul introduced a nifty little move called the Whisk (or was that the Whisp - I’m sure someone will let me know!). I really like the Whisk and think it adds a nice touch to the Waltz!

Our first lesson did not involve any music, but this week we danced to a Simply Red song, the title of which seems to escape me, but I’ll update this when I remember it! (It's 'If you don't know me by now')

We are still at least two couples missing as they have been on their hols for the last few weeks - think they might be wanting some private Waltzing tuition.

Next week we are moving on to our second dance - the Square Tango. That should be interesting!

Week 3

It seems that Sarah and Alex have been bitten by the dancing bug - they arrived a whole 30 minutes early to partake in some practice before the lesson started.

Our third lesson started with a quick recap on the Waltz. We had a new couple join us for the first time this week. Jo and John were given a quick run down on the waltz and seemed to take to it like a duck to water. They might even prove to be some competition for Christine and John who glide around the floor as it they‘ve been dancing for ages!!

I must say, if called upon in an emergency, I think Andy and I could now do a semi-decent job at the Waltz!

This week Paul introduced the Square Tango. I said this would be interesting… and it was!

There’s a lot more to remember with this dance. We learnt three sections and apparently there’s more to add on next week. I think Andy and I will have to find time for some extra practice before the next lesson.

I personally think the Square Tango is a really funny dance - don’t ask me why, it just makes me laugh! Ten couples strutting up and down the Wesley Centre is definitely a sight to behold.

I think we’ll all be dreaming the tango ………...

one, two, three, four,

one, two three, four,

slow, slow, quick, quick, quick , stop!!

Looking forward to learning more next week, by then we’ll definitely have been ‘tangoed‘!

Week 4

Andy and I felt the need for a quick practice of the square tango on Friday lunch time in preparation for Sunday evening. I’ve decided that I’m going to try and take the tango a bit more seriously as I suspect that as the weeks go on we’ll all get a little more competitive....we’ll see!

Sunday evening saw us brushing up on the waltz for the first 15 minutes. I still feel like I’m clomping around – I think my shoes are too heavy (lame excuse I know) so I reckon I’ll wear different ones next time. Mike and Jill joined us for the first time tonight. They’ve been on holiday for the last few weeks so have quite a bit to catch up on. That being said, they seemed to get to grips with the waltz and much of the square tango in one lesson.

We added a really exciting bit to the square tango tonight – the woman has to bend backwards whilst being supported by her partner. I can see some lesser known muscles being pulled here! I think we all managed to take to it quite well though. The music we’re dancing to it the Eurhythmics song Sweet Dreams.

Week 4.5

We didn’t have a formal lesson this week as Paul (& Mike) we recovering from a very long bike ride, others were on holiday, and some of us were living it up at a very wet Chatsworth Country Fair!! A few couples still gathered in the Wesley Centre for dance practice.

Week 5

Well, it’s been two whole weeks since we had a proper lesson, Andy and I were feeling rather rusty on the square tango. A few of us had to be reminded of some of the crucial steps but we all got into it again and were dancing round the Wesley Centre to the Sweet Dreams song before long!

Ray and Annette, who have been with us since Week 1, are a great combination. Ray is rather like one of the professional dancers on Strictly Come Dancing and has danced a lot in the past, whereas Annette is a novice like the rest of us.

You will be glad to know that I wore different shoes tonight and felt a little less clompy. I will have to practice looking more elegant though!

For the last fifteen minutes we started learning the basic steps to our next dance – the Cha Cha Cha. Andy found this slightly difficult to begin with, but after several attempts dancing and one to one tuition with Sue N he finally got it. Definitely looking forward to more next week.

Week 6

Unfortunately not many people could make it this week due to holidays, or prior commitments. Fortunately this meant the few couples that did turn up, Alex and Sarah, Ray and Sue N, Andy and I, got more time with our dance coach Paul.

We started off with the square tango, and feel we might be making a bit of progress. We can actually remember the steps and sequence. Just when we thought we knew it, Paul added a ‘finale’ bit on the end, which involves the men turning into the centre, followed by the women turning into the centre, then ending up in the arms of your partner in a final hold position.

As with each lesson, we spend time on all the dances we have learnt so far. We feel we are getting better at the waltz, as we can now move around the room and look like we ‘almost’ know what we are doing. Going round corners needs more practice, but we’re getting there.

The cha cha cha, is still proving difficult (for Andy...). Hopefully next week’s lesson might help.

Week 7

We were back to a full complement this week. All the couples were here. Starting with a waltz, followed by a few square tangos, and finishing off with a number of cha cha cha’s.

Everyone is putting a lot of effort in, wanting to get the dances right and perfected.

Tonight we felt confident with the square tango. Unfortunately we can’t say the same about the cha cha cha. Everytime the music comes on for this, we have no idea what we are going to do next. I think we need some serious planning and practice on this one. This is certainly a challenge, which we must overcome.

Week 8

We weren’t able to go to class tonight. Sarah and I had to run through some music practice before fellowship group, and this left Alex and Andy without their dancing partners. Even though Andy didn’t have his usual partner, he didn’t let this stop him.....(no he didn’t dance with Alex...). He danced with Sue N for the last half hour. Andy and Sue only had time for a quick waltz, but Andy was glad of the practice.

While Andy wasn’t able to attend the whole class, he did report back that all the couples seemed to be making good progress. The ‘Nearly Come Dancing’ gala ballroom dance night, is fast approaching. The competition is hotting up. The pressure is building.... More next week.

Week 9

Oh what a night.... Lot’s happened this week. We did more of the same. More practice on the waltz, square tango and cha cha cha.

Paul introduced a series of turns into the waltz, and it looked great. However, it was proving a bit difficult to learn, for our brave amateurs. The turns looked very impressive when demonstrated by Paul, so we wanted to have a go at it. Andy and I were thinking, that if we could perform these turns, on the night, we could be winners. Unfortunately we looked like a couple of robots, pivoting on one foot and then the other foot, and then finishing with a near grand topple over. Apparently the secret is to keep the man’s right foot with the women’s right foot, and somehow keep the feet together as you do each turn. Mike and Jill managed to apply this principle and kept their feet aligned and together with each turn (the rope which Paul used to tie their feet together was helping).

And there’s more. Paul introduced the fourth dance. The Viennese waltz. This is the sort of dance I like. A waltz but with lots of twirling, twirl after twirl, after twirl, after twirl.... after twirl..... Unfortunately, after a few attempts, everyone felt a little dizzy and nauseous. Paul went back to the drawing board to find an alternative dance. Minutes later, he found one. The Boston Two Step. This dance involves the men putting their hands on their hips. Enough said...

Week 10

Another class we couldn’t attend....

Ballroom dancing has become a huge part of our lives (watching Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night, and having dance class on a Sunday evening...). To miss a lesson at this stage can certainly knock one’s confidence.

John and Christine, and Alex and Sarah, independently reported that this week’s class was a particularly good one. Everyone was dancing well. Many of the couples felt they were making some real progress. The class were finetuning and polishing their performances, and overcoming those steps which were proving difficult ones.

I think Andy and I have fallen behind a bit. The ‘Nearly Come Dancing’ gala ballroom dance night is a few weeks away, and we still haven’t got a handle on all the dances. I’m sure it will all be all right on the night..... or will it??

Week 11

It was good to be back in class tonight. Paul was unable to lead the class tonight, but Anne and Selwyn stepped in. We started with a waltz, then a square tango, then a cha cha cha, then a Boston Two Step, and then all of them, all over again, and again.

Anne and Selwyn had missed a couple of classes to date, but it didn’t show. They led the way on the Boston Two Step, like they’ve done it before.

Everyone seems to be doing well at the waltz and the square tango. The cha cha cha is proving difficult for some. You can tell it’s the cha cha cha when you hear the music, and the communal groan.... Many of the couples have taken well to the Boston Two Step. Andy is finding this one a little difficult. He can’t remember which steps go where. This is not good when its a sequence dance, and all couples will be doing the same steps. We might stand out, for all the wrong reasons. If he’s not looking at his own feet, his head will be turned in the direction of another couple, trying to see how they are doing it.

There is only a couple of lessons left before the big night on 8th November. The stress, worry, and pressure is building....

Week 12

A week to go before the big night.

We practiced all our dances to get them fine tuned. Everyone, including us, seemed to be managing well with the waltz, square tango, and Boston Two Step. The cha cha cha was still proving difficult for some (including us). In previous classes, Paul had showed us some of the basic steps of the cha cha cha, and left it to us to put together a dance routine. This wasn't going well for us. With a week to go, we had still not finalised our routine. This was beginning to knock our confidence. We really must find time this week to put in extra practice, we both feel we desperately need it.

Week 13 (The Last Rehearsal before the Big Night)

Helen's not well this week, so I decided to take over the writing of the dancing diary.

It is the afternoon of the 8th November. Only hours away from all of our dancing couples performing in public.

Oh dear! How things have changed... Of all the rehearsals this was clearly our worst. Helen was feeling rotten because of a bad cold/flu, and the memory of what steps I should be doing was slowing ebbing out of my right ear. With the pressure building, I was beginning to crack.

We had finally come up with a routine for the cha cha cha, but I was having difficulty remembering the steps. On top of this, dances which we had done well in previous classes, were becoming difficult to do. This rehearsal was turning into a nightmare which we couldn't awake from. Just hours until the night where we face the judges, and an audience. Terrified... yes we were.

However, everyone else seemed to be going from strength to strength. All the other couples were making huge improvements. With the big night hours away Helen and I were beginning to get very worried!! Could we remember all that we had learnt in previous classes? Could we produce a performance to be proud of?? We were beginning to doubt we could.

The Big Night

It was here. The night we were all waiting for. For some a chance to show off their new dance skills, for others an evening of worry and fear. The judges were on the stage, the audience had their seats, the lights were dimmed, the glitter ball was revolving, the music was playing, and the dancers waited anxiously in the corridor. No more rehearsals. This was it.

Oh what a night. Our fears had come true. Andy was having trouble remembering some of the steps for the Boston Two Step and the cha cha cha. It was all going a little wrong. I had dosed up on Lemsip Max Strength, and felt much better than I did in rehearsal that afternoon. Andy on the other hand was feeling very uncomfortable. The fifty strong audience watching every move, the bright spotlights, the experienced judges, the pressure to not put a foot wrong, and the tight starched collar of his shirt. What was there to be uncomfortable about???

All of the rehearsals up to now (except Saturday afternoon) were great and we were brimming with confidence. On the night, however it was a different story. We both tried hard to do the best job we could, but I think we tried a little too hard, and mistakes crept in. Andy is usually laid back and doesn’t worry about much, but tonight, I saw a whole new side to him. He was in fear. The dinner jacket and bow tie did not provide much comfort.

From what we saw of the other couples, they were doing a great job. Ray and Annette were floating around the dance floor effortlessly. John and Christine danced with focus and precision and delivered polished dances. For Alex and Sarah it had all fallen into place, and they looked like a couple who knew what they were doing. Elsie stepped in at last minute to accompany Sue, and it didn’t look like they only had one practice together. Anne and Selwyn had mastered each of the dances, and managed to pull off a good performance with great gusto. Mike and Jill were probably as nervous as we were but didn’t let it show. They stepped up to the mark and delivered some quality dances. Two couples, Sue and Peter and John and Jo, had danced gracefully and elegantly all evening. It was a close call, but, there could only be one winner. Sue and Peter were awarded the Almondbury’s Nearly Come Dancing Gala Ballroom Dance Night Best Dancers Trophy 2008. Our winners are certainly naturals and definitely deserved the trophy.

Halfway through the evening, two of the judges, Helen and Andrew Crawshaw, took to the floor and delivered an impressive waltz and jive. Our dancers watched in awe, for we could only dream of giving such a professional performance.

At the end of the evening, Andy and I were awarded with a trophy for the most improved couple, which was a huge surprise, as we felt our dancing on the night did not deserve this.

At the beginning of the dance classes, Paul had a great challenge. Andy could not dance at all. He had no rhthym, and no timing. He was incapable of doing any dance (modern or ballroom) to any music. He was a terrible dancer, and he won’t mind me saying this, as he agrees. Somehow, against all the odds, Paul had taught Andy to dance.

It has become clear throughout all the rehearsals, and the ballroom dance night, how challenging, and sometimes difficult it is to learn a series of dances and perform in front of an audience. I think everyone who took part did a fantastic job. All the dancers had a lot of fun during rehearsals and owe so much to our dance coach Paul who taught us everything we know!

Photos of Paul F in his professional dancing days.

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