‘Inspiring’ Strictly Come Dancing returns

Felicity Drever and dancing partner Frederico Ribeiro work on their dance moves in Felicity's home studio on Captain's Road. Picture: Greg Macvean
Felicity Drever and dancing partner Frederico Ribeiro work on their dance moves in Felicity's home studio on Captain's Road. Picture: Greg Macvean
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IT is the hit TV show that has fuelled a new generation with the delights of waltzing, quick-stepping and jiving.

And as Strictly Come Dancing prepares to boogie-woogie back onto our screens tonight, dance fever looks set to sweep the Capital again.

With this year’s line-up including Scots golfing legend Tony Jacklin, Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, television personality Vanessa Feltz, Countdown cutie Rachel Riley and model Abbey Clancy, 2013 promises to be as popular as ever.

The show’s hotly anticipated return is once again expected to inspire people to put on their dancing shoes, with schools across Edinburgh saying they are preparing for a spike in people “giving it a go”.

Dawn-Claire Robertson is a ballroom dancing instructor at Dance Base who once appeared on the precursor to the popular show, Come Dancing, and says the programme has increased the desirability of dancing.

“In the springtime in particular, when people are watching the glory of the finale, we see a rise in people coming to classes,” she says. “It inspires people who have never had a go at the various styles of dancing on the show like tango and salsa, as well as ballroom.

“A lot of people are more keen to be doing it because of the element of fun, rather than to become experts.

“It is not all about becoming an expert dancer, there is the social element too, the expertise may come later.”

As Scotland’s National Centre for Dance, Dance Base has been offering people the opportunity to discover their potential since 1994 from its base at the Grassmarket.

It already has nearly 1500 partner dancers taking part over three terms, in everything from classic ballroom to Cuban salsa, not to mention thousands of others at classes in every kind of style from hip-hop to dance workout, burlesque to tap.

“We get people who have never danced before and often those who are looking to dance at special occasions such as weddings,” Dawn-Claire adds.

“The other thing that we have noticed is the cruising market – quite a lot of people are going on cruise holidays now where a big part of the entertainment is partner dancing.

“So, because of that, people are wanting to brush up on their skills before they go.”

Felicity Drever, who runs Edinburgh Dance School at various locations across the city, says she anticipates another surge in numbers once the TV programme is fully under way.

She says its mainstream presence has encouraged more people – in particular men – to come for partnered dance classes.

“It’s often couples that are taking it up,” she says. “A lot of people are giving gift vouchers for classes now too. Particularly in the New Year, the classes tend to be really full.

“The ballroom and Latin we have now tend to be half males and half females taking them, which is a notable difference. A few years ago it used to be women having to dance with women whereas now it’s ok for men to come and make a date of it, which can only be a good thing.”

The first episode of Strictly Come Dancing, airing tonight, will pair up the celebrities with their professional dancing partners, with the live shows beginning after a few weeks’ rehearsal.

Five new professional dancers have joined for the eleventh series: Anya Garnis, Iveta Lukosiute, Janette Manrara, Kevin Clifton and Aljaz Skorjanec.

Other celebrities in the starting 15 include singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Hollyoaks actor Ashley Taylor Dawson, actress Fiona Fullerton and rugby star Ben Cohen.

Hairy Biker Dave Myers, former Casualty actor Patrick Robinson, former Coronation Street actress Natalie Gumede and Waterloo Road star Mark Benton – who is currently starring in Hairspray the Musical at Edinburgh Playhouse – have also signed up.