It’s Strictly come Southsea at popular tea dance open day

Linda and Nicholas Shorthouse from Portsmouth 'Picture Ian Hargreaves (161215-4)
Linda and Nicholas Shorthouse from Portsmouth 'Picture Ian Hargreaves (161215-4)
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DANCE mania is set to sweep the nation again as the latest series of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing begins.

But much closer to home, regulars at a tea dance club in Southsea have been waltzing and foxtrotting decades before the modern version of the cult television show began.

From left, Diane Boorah, Barbara Rumens, organiser Steve Kingsley and Gladys Tunel 'Picture Ian Hargreaves (161215-1)

From left, Diane Boorah, Barbara Rumens, organiser Steve Kingsley and Gladys Tunel 'Picture Ian Hargreaves (161215-1)

The tea dances at the Best Western Royal Beach hotel in Southsea see dozens of dancers get on their feet every Wednesday afternoon from 1pm until 4pm. But you don’t have to be as good as a contestant on Strictly to join in – those who have never dared the dancefloor also have the chance to take part.

One dancing diva Pamela, 76, said: ‘Everyone is so friendly and it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, you just carry on.’

The tea dance has been held at the hotel for the last five years, before which it took place on the South Parade Pier.

Organiser Steve Kingsley doubles up as a disc jockey, toting a microphone and a smile.

Gladys Tunel, 80, has been coming along since the dances began almost 40 years ago and owns 200 skirts – all of which are from Hong Kong.

Many of the women who attend the dance come flamboyantly dressed for the dancefloor.

However, they all seem to have one request in common.

Pamela said: ‘Advertise for some more men, will you?,’ a statement which was echoed by many of the women.

‘We need more,’ agreed 76-year-old Brenda.

Winnie Groves, 85, began coming to the tea dance 30 years ago after her husband died and recalls its lovely social atmosphere.

She said ‘My favourite dance used to be the foxtrot.’

Co-organiser Pat said:‘It’s a great way for older people to combat loneliness and it keeps them young.’

Mary and her daughter Joyce come every week and love the atmosphere.

Joyce said: ‘She’s 94 and still loves dancing.’

Yesterday’s tea dance was free and aimed to encourage anyone interested to come along and see what it’s all about.

‘We’re like a family here,’ said Brenda, who also thinks there should be more dances of its kind.

For more information call (023) 9273 1281. Entrance is normally £4.