It’s nearly that time again. The sequins are making another appearance and the headlines are full of celebrity names taking to the dance floor – Strictly Come Dancing starts again tonight with a star-studded opening show.
But it’s not just the famous faces that have taken a liking to ballroom and Latin dancing – dancers young and old across the Portsmouth area have been heading to dance rooms and giving it a go.
Two schools that cater for them are the Victory School of Dance and the Keal School of Dancing. Principals Elaine Sanderson and David Keal have been friends for the past two decades and have taught hundreds of dancers the likes of the waltz and the salsa.
Elaine, 57, lives in Gosport and founded the VSD in 2005. When she was younger Elaine competed in ballroom, Latin and classical sequence dancing.
She says: ‘It’s enjoyable for so many people and it’s good exercise. My father wanted me to dance and at the time I just got really into it.
‘I just went from there and it grew and grew until I wanted to be part of the game and have a partner. I’ve always loved dancing.’
Based in Portchester, the school offers classes in ballroom, Latin, classical, sequence, freestyle, salsa, street, pole dancing, Zumba and burlesque.
Elaine explains: ‘There’s a range of ages involved with the school. Specifically for ballroom and Latin, we have classes for three year olds up to those in their 90s. There are beginner classes and dancers can develop up to improvers.
‘There’s also a social practise night on Fridays for dancers. It’s very popular here and all the classes can get involved.’
She adds: ‘Couples can talk to each other about what they’ve learned in the week, socialise with each other and practise dancing to remind themselves.
‘They need more than one lesson really to learn the moves properly, and it’s a good way to build friendships with other people. They tend to work better as a group too.’
Elaine also plans to start a baby class for children 18 months and older. With a range of classes available, she tries to cater for every type and age of dancer.
Since Strictly Come Dancing shimmied on to our screens a decade ago, Elaine has noticed an increase in dancers who want to try their hand at the classical style.
‘A lot more people want to be involved,’ she explains.
‘I think they see the glamour of dance and they want to be part of that. They can see how much all the competitors enjoy it and so why not have a go? I’ve had a lot of people come in because they’ve loved the show, and some come in because they want to learn for the first dance at their wedding and just stay.
‘They’ve just come to the beginners class and fallen in love with it.’
The aim for the future is to bring in new dancers and new classes, especially for people who wouldn’t normally head to a dance class.
Elaine says: ‘I’d like to see more people in classes and getting into dancing. People realise how much fun it is when they start it, especially married and young couples.
‘We have teachers come in from the outside to teach street and freestyle for the children, and that’s important.’
Elaine has had a relationship with the Keal School of Dancing for 20 years, and Elaine and David’s friendship is a strong part of both the dance schools.
She says: ‘We have always worked together in a way and he’s always put on lessons here now and then. It’s important you can talk about dance together and work things out, regardless of being at different schools. Teachers should have a good relationship that way.’
David, 52, lives in Cosham and has been the principal of KSD since 2008 when he took over from his mother, who had ran the school since it began in 1983 - although David was involved even then.
He says: ‘I’ve been teaching for the school basically since it started, but now I’m a principal full-time. I started dancing the week before my 11th birthday.
‘My sister was taken to dance lessons and I was dragged around the shops every Saturday because of it.
‘Eventually I thought well let’s try this dancing thing myself. It can’t be worse than doing this every week. And I found it very enjoyable.’
Soon dancing became David’s passion, and teaching it followed.
He explains: ‘I love working out the steps to it. I think, from a teaching point of view, it’s lovely to teach people the joy of dance and see how much pleasure it brings them.’
The school offers a range of classic dance styles, including ballroom and Latin, and starts with beginners. There are classes in Cosham, North End, Hilsea, Southsea and farther afield.
David says: ‘I also do one-on-one lessons for people if they haven’t the confidence quite yet to be up in front of a class.
‘It’s about making sure the dancers are happy too.’
David believes dance helps release energy, keep people fit and socialising.
‘It’s something couples can do together,’ he explains.
‘In this day and age sometimes people are going off in all different directions, and couples don’t always do a massive amount together. But dancing is something they can make time for and it keeps them generally fit through gentle exercise.
‘It’s also very important for the kids to become involved from a young age too.’
And Strictly Come Dancing has also affected David’s members, as he says: ‘Strictly is very friendly, and it shows boys that it’s okay to dance. So many men, such as sports stars, go on it and they enjoy it.
‘Husbands and boyfriends see on the TV that it’s not so bad and are happier to go along.
‘It’s about being passionate and it’s a lot of hardwork if you really want to get good at it, but it’s always worth it.’