Amateur dancers have a cha-cha-chance to glide across the floor with professionals in February – or to step on their toes with their two left feet. 

No-one will mind too much because the emphasis of the Strictly Goes to the Movies event at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens is more on raising awareness and funds for homeless charity Shelter. 

That’s not to say those taking part won’t be taking it seriously, though, and they have some expert help available to them. 

James Wilson has the pedigree to guide them. He’s been dancing since he was young and has worked with some of the best names in the business, appeared in some of the biggest shows and has been a choreographer for Strictly Come Dancing. 

He said: ‘From a ballroom and Latin dancer’s point of view, the Winter Gardens is the mothership. I’ve been going there most of my life. It has an air of beauty, grace and elegance about it and it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to dance in such superb surroundings. 

‘I have been involved with Shelter for about five years now. It’s such an amazing cause – in this day and age, no-one should be without shelter and warmth. I will be the head judge and co-ordinator of everything dance. I will pair the professional dancers with the contestants, and I’ll choose the music.’ 

The event, on February 11, has a film theme and will feature classic movie music which the amateurs will dance to with their professional partners. Two awards will be presented on the night – to the judges’ winner who will be the contestant with the highest overall score, and the audience winner who will be determined by voting on the night.  

James was born on the Wirral and had his first stage experience in a Liverpool Empire production of Her Benny. 

He added: ‘I find that people are always a little nervous about taking part at first but they only have a concentrated amount of time with a professional dancer and it’s important to make the most of that time. 

‘People tend to surprise themselves. They often think they can’t do it but they end up getting the bug and want to do it again – it can be a very enjoyable and uplifting experience. It’s really nice for me to see everyone’s individual journey. This is much more than just learning a dance, it can be life-changing.’ 

Dance certainly changed James’s life. He was brought up in a non-dancing household but when his cousin wanted someone to accompany her to Latin and Ballroom classes, he agreed to keep her company. It wasn’t long before she gave up dancing, but James thrived. 

‘I always had a natural understanding of music and when I started going to dance classes I was propelled very quickly,’ he said. ‘It made me feel great, it was really nice to escape and express myself. I always knew I would do this. 

‘When I was 19 I saw an advert in The Stage for auditions for the first national tour of Strictly Ballroom Dancing choreographed by Anton Du Beke. The auditions were the following day, so I got an early train to London, did the audition and got the job.’ 

* Lancashire Life’s advertising sales manager Lindsey Stephens will be one of the amateur dancers taking part in the event. To sponsor her, go to