Strictly Come Surrey: our county's dancing connections
With Strictly Come Dancing back on our screens, bringing glitz and glamour to Saturday nights, SIAN ROWLAND looks at some of the show’s many connections to Surrey – and finds out a few of the best places to step out at a local dance class
Strictly Come Dancing's Surrey connections...
Here in Surrey, we can lay claim to a number of connections to the hit TV show, not least the fact that several of the dancers hold lessons here, too
Strictly’s irrepressible host Bruce Forsyth is a Surrey resident with a house on the Wentworth estate. Professional dancers Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone both live in Guildford and hold classes there when their busy schedules permit. Former Strictly champion Camilla Dallerup, the winner of series six, has settled in Walton-on-Thames. Professional dancer Erin Boag can be found in Kingston where she leads weekly dance classes. Winner of series four and Strictly choreographer Karen Hardy is based in Croydon. Another of the Strictly dancers Lilia Kopylova teaches zumba in Sutton. Even the costumes are made locally: Dance Sport International make their stunning creations in Croydon, and Mitcham is home to Chrisanne who produce outfits for both the TV show and live tour.
IT'S AUTUMN again and that means only one thing for dance fans – Strictly Come Dancing is back.
The eighth season of the hit TV show promises to be the best yet as celebrities bedecked in sequins, rhinestones and crystals – and that’s just the men – trip the light fantastic on our screens every Saturday evening until Christmas.
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- 3 17 of the best spots for al fresco dining in Essex
- 4 12 outdoor dining experiences in Surrey
- 5 Win a short break in London at The Dilly on Piccadilly
- 6 35 great Surrey pubs with beer gardens and terraces
- 7 19 great places to eat outdoors in Cheshire after lockdown
- 8 7 magical bluebell walks in Devon
- 9 Bluebell walks in Suffolk: Beautiful spring woodlands to explore
- 10 Bluebell woods in Derbyshire: Top 5 places to go for woodland walks
But what if you fancy getting into the Strictly spirit yourself a little closer to home? Well, whether you’d like to try a bit of tango in Tongham, salsa in Surbiton or ceroc in Oxshott, dance fever is alive and well here in Surrey – and what is more, you could even be learning alongside one of the show’s very own professional dancers.
Indeed, Surrey can lay claim to a number of close connections to the show – not least the fact that Strictly favourites and Argentine tango champions Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone are based in Guildford, where they run classes in-between their hectic filming and training schedule.
Glitz in Guildford Flavia cites her hometown as a major inspiration in her dance career: “I consider myself very lucky to have been brought up in Guildford as I was minutes away from what was one of the top dance studios in England, Hurleys dance school,” she says. “It was there that I gained all the inspiration I needed. I remember having my private lessons at the age of six or seven years old with these competition couples dancing around me looking amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
The former UK ballroom champion also recalls the magnificent Imperial Dance Championships, which were held at the Guildford Civic for most of the 1970s and 80s and are now held at Lakeside Country Club in Frimley. “It was great to see hundreds of couples from all over the world competing in Guildford,” she adds.
In another Surrey connection to the show, the winner of 2008’s Strictly, Camilla Sacre-Dallerup, lives in Walton-on-Thames. She says that our green and leafy county has helped inspire her dancing, too. “Surrey somehow reminds me of where I grew up in Denmark – its wide roads with trees – and I have always been near water so that’s what I love about Walton,” says the professional dancer and TV presenter. “I find inspiration for my dancing when I go for a walk along the river, probably because it’s one of my favourite things to do; it’s so stunning and relaxing and it’s nature at its best!”
If you’re aiming to be a professional dancer, it’s best to start young like Flavia and Camilla, but there are plenty of opportunities for those who just want to feel good, get healthy and kick off the stress of life.
“Dancing requires a lot of concentration and in today’s busy lives we lead, it’s a great way to escape everyday life,” says Flavia. “Having the courage to start is probably the biggest challenge, but if you can do that and challenge your initial fears, the rewards are huge and it all becomes easier from then on.”
Fellow professional Camilla, who won her first national title at the age of 12, agrees. “I know a lot of people have told me they were scared of going to the beginner dance classes because they were worried they’d stand out and look silly at first,” she says. “It’s important to remember, though, that everyone who goes to the class is in the same boat. Once you are there, you have to learn steps and listen to the beat in the music whilst coordinating your arms and legs, so there really is no time to look or focus on anyone but yourself!”
Tango in Surbiton If you’ve watched Flavia and Vincent’s stunning Argentine tango moves and would like to have a go at the elegant ganchos (hooks) and ochos (figures of eight) yourself, you can book yourself into the Alma del Tango Wednesday classes in Berrylands near Surbiton.
Peter Jones and Margaret Madgwick, who run the classes, admit that it takes a long time to dance tango really well but say, “Everybody is welcome to come and try out this wonderful dance.” They also teach vals, a type of tango waltz, and milonga, another form of the dance, so there’s bound to be a style to suit everyone.
Strictly is not shy about introducing new dance styles to the show and this has broadened the appeal of unusual or long-forgotten dances. Who can forget Chris Hollins’ and Ola Jordan’s winning Charleston from the last series? Lindy Hop is another high-energy dance that captured viewers’ imaginations last series.
Named after American aviator Charles Lindburgh’s 1927 flight across the Atlantic, Lindy Hop emerged from Harlem in the 1920s and 30s and has seen a huge revival of interest recently. If that sounds like your kind of thing, Surrey Swing will take you back in time with its Lindy Hop and jive classes in Guildford and Farnham and with a monthly Saturday dance, you can put your skills into practice, too.
Meanwhile, with their brand of cool modern jive moves, Surrey Ceroc also runs classes across the county, including Thames Ditton, Epsom and Godalming, or get jitterbugging with Everything’s Jumpin’ in Kingston.
And remember, it’s not just for ladies either! Indeed, for any fellas out there who want to follow in the footsteps of Strictly hunks like Roger Black, Gavin Henson and Ricky Whittle, it seems there are added benefits to learning how to dance well. Recent research published by The Royal Society, the oldest and most respected science academy in the world, reveals what we girls have always known: better dancers are more attractive. Indeed, flapping your arms and legs around is unlikely to bag you a mate, so ‘Dad’ dancers, you have been warned!
A mover in Shalford Plus, if you men needed any further incentive, Olympic athlete and Shalford resident Roger Black has this advice: “Dancing gets you moving,” he says, “and that’s got to be good for your health.” He feels that appearing in the second series of Strictly, partnered with Camilla, was about the challenge of trying to master something he wasn’t naturally good at.
And if that’s not enough to get you off the sofa, Black adds, “learning from a sexy blonde like Camilla was an added bonus!”
Of course, we can’t guarantee you’ll find a Camilla or a Flavia down at your local dance school, but if you’re now feeling ready to take to the dance floor, Roger Black has this to say: “Be patient, feel the rhythm of the music… and wear comfy shoes.”
For those who are still hesitating, whether male or female, Camilla Sacre-Dallerup has this final advice: “If you fancy dancing, just go and enjoy!” she says. “What’s so wonderful about dancing is that it engages your mind as well as your body and it’s fun and sociable, too, so you don’t really feel you’re working out. In the meantime, you’re burning away those calories as well!”
For further information and contact details for all these dance classes, visit www.dance-clubs.co.uk/danceschools