How I got into "social" ballroom dancing

"when you hear a tune and say how can you dance to this, you're hooked"

The start of it all.

Back in 1976 I met who was to become my future wife, her name was Pamela Hose, she was heavily involved with ballroom and Latin dancing and had been enjoying this for a long time in fact ever since a young child. She was taught and nurtured by a champion of the ballroom, Constance (Connie) Millington at her academy of ballroom dance at 18 Merton Road, Bootle, Merseyside. Connie’s formation teams where famous for regularly competed against other teams in the original BBC “Come Dancing” TV show and you would often see them in the finals as the North West Region compete against the Home Counties Region (Peggy Spencer's school), I have no idea who won the most times. It is a great pity there seems to be no public record of the achievements and life of Connie Millington that can be easily be found.

Constance (Connie) Millington  Constance (Connie) Millington  Constance (Connie) Millington

So when I started to court Pam (that's an old phrase) she said “if you want to see me more often, you will have to come to the dance class”; I reluctantly agreed and signed up for the beginners classes. The first day arrived and I walked up the drive of the big house and I could hear the sound of “Una Paloma Blanca” resounding out of the hall to the rear. A private lesson was in progress so I waited in the side room with other members and the nervous newbies like myself. The music went off and the door opened and we were all invited in by Jane Holmes the main teacher that day. Jane was accompanied by a few student teachers.
The introductions over the lesson started. We were told the first dance would be the “Cha Cha” and we (the men) all lined up behind Sue a student dance teacher. She showed us the first basic steps and then we had to follow; she chanted “one, two, cha cha cha, three, four, cha, cha, cha” then followed by “And agaaain” and so it continued interrupted by mistakes and what came to be the line that made us laugh “And agaaain”... Just how hard can 6 or more steps be, obviously very hard!! So where was Pam when all this was going on, she was busy with the more advanced group and I thought this was way to see her more!
Weeks turned to months and then turned to years and I became “reasonable” at it. I blamed the slow climb to proficiency down to also learning my trade of Radio TV and Electronics servicing at the same time. The latter was going to provide a living after all.

Pam and I married and the dancing lessons continued. Then there was a tragic event, it was the death of Connie after an illness, all things about the academy was about to change. Jane who was the head teacher at the time tried to continue the school in the way Connie had ran it but her family had other ideas about the business and the future. Things became incompatible at the new “Millington’s” so Jane and Jimmy opened their own school just down the road from where we were living at the time. Pam and I were asked to join them and we helped build the school infrastructure and enjoyed seeing the school go from strength the strength.
We continued at the new school until the joy of our first child was on the way, unfortunately Pam was advised to rest for the rest of the pregnancy so the dancing stopped.
Tragedy also struck Jane and Jimmy as they were involved in a serious car crash on Walton Road, Liverpool and he was very sadly killed. The school then eventually slowly closed.

Recent history and the renewal of interest

After years of no involvement in any form of dance apart from holiday and celebration bopping or as I referred to it as “a bit of jigging about” suddenly a new TV show arrived “Strictly Come Dancing” I released I had never really danced in the ballroom term with my own dear wife. A challenge then presented itself, I have to find a new school and rectify this. After a long search I found a local school and we joined. This new school then had to cancel the class due to falling numbers and the new class was on a Sunday and this day was not a day for us, so a new hunt was under way
During this time of inactivity I suffered a small heart attack and had to have a hospital procedure to clear the troublesome artery and then several weeks of rehabilitation at the local cardiac support centre at St Catherine's Hospital Wirral Heartbeat You would expect that after a heart attack you would be advised to take it easy, think again! Once you have recovered from the procedure if you opt for the rehabilitation, and I strongly advise you do they get you in their gym and steadily build up your strength and confidence again. So once I regained my strength my thoughts moved back to ballroom as now not only was this a hobby to enjoy with my wife it had now also become my exercise for mind and body.
New school found Stepping it Out and we joined at a low level to see how it went as we where both "rusty". Four years past and we have both with Gills teaching grew and remembered old routines. We have regularly been to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom as there are not many places in the North West where you can do Latin and Ballroom.

Strictly Come Dancing

Having regained some of the old steps and new ones too, I discovered Donaheys who run some excellent "Strictly Come Dancing" themed weekends. We have enjoyed a couple of their weekends away at Warwickshire and another in Windsor so far and hope to also try another that is ran at Alton Towers, in Staffordshire. The great thing at these events is the chance to be given short lessons/workshops by the Pro's who perform on the show and in the evening be able to watch up close their show piece routines.

Anton and Erin  Ian and Natalie  Kevin and Karen  Aljaz and Janette

Strictly for Woodlands

..> Back in 2014 our school was asked to supply two men to help partner a couple of ladies who where going to attempt to learn a dance routine and take part in a Strictly Come Dancing type competition to raise funds for a Liverpool Hospice the Woodlands Hospice. Our teacher Gill asked myself and another to be the "experienced" partners for them and she would choreograph the routine. My partner was given a Samba to perform and after several weeks of training we performed this at the event and came in 2nd place with 10's.
I opened up a just giving page to try and raise some funds as the competitors where tasked to so as for taking part. Thanks to some generous friends I'm pleased to say that I managed to raise nice sum for them.

Return to Classes

Late 2017 after 2 years away from any class activity due to a wrist / tendon injury from lifting a double glazed patio door out of its frame and back in again "twice" (don't ask)! I found a new class just starting out called Ballroom Blitz so we joined in to see what we could remember.
Jackie the principal/owner has such a positive attitude and exudes positivity and encouragement, her beginners have moved on so fast in such a short time. The class is ran in such a refreshing style.
After 2 years away we have forgotten most (not all) of the routines we knew so we joined in with the beginners, but it is such fun and no stress and as we go over the old basics refining the technique. As Jackie says basics done good is better than any fancy step attempted badly, this was also said to us by Aljaž Skorjanec some years earlier at on of the Donaheys events. It is so true.