IT seems fitting that a dance centre specialising in ballroom and latin should open its new ballroom just as Strictly Come Dancing returns to our TV screens.
The hit show has had a big impact on numbers at Drapers Dance Centre, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary early next year.
“This is our busiest time, when Strictly comes on. It has definitely encouraged more people to learn to dance,” said Hayley Draper.
“The old Come Dancing used to be just for professionals and I think there was a concern that letting non-dancers take part wasn’t a good idea.”
“But it’s been great for increasing the popularity of dancing. People see celebrities having a go and decide to give it a go themselves, they can see that it’s ok not to be perfect.”
“They have to bring a partner so they have to persuade their other half to joinin as well.”
Hayley, 30, owns the Beighton dance school with her husband Scott, 39, whose parents Raymond and Carol set it up in 1973.
When they retired eight years ago, Scott and Hayley bought the business from them and have now expanded it by adding a third ballroom.
Up until ten years ago they were both competing as ballroom dancers, although they were never professional partners, and Scott was a competitor on the original Come Dancing which finished in 1998.
Scott was European Professional Champion and a World Show Dance finalist and now trains professional dancers, working in the UK and abroad in countries like China where ballroom dancing has increased in popularity. Hayley was UK Youth Champion.
She said: “I’m from London and we met while Scott was training there. He has danced since he was three and I’ve danced since I was seven.”
“I was a shy child and I took up dancing to improve my confidence and also to strengthen my ankles, because I’d twisted them three times before taking up dancing.”
Hayley said they run courses for beginners so that they don’t feel they have to commit indefinitely, and it allows them to make a decision at the end of the course about whether or not to carry on.
“At the end of every course we normally get at least 60 per cent who want to carry on. Our longest couple have been with us for 20 years,” Hayley said.
The couple’s five-year-old son Max is following in his parents’ dance steps. He took up dancing at the age of three and does ballroom, latin and street dance.
“We didn’t push him into it, he asked if he could do it, and we make sure he has other hobbies as well like kickboxing. I’m glad he wanted to dance though,” said Hayley.
“We teach children from the age of one, when their parents stay with them. Our oldest dancer is an 80-year-old lady.”
Two of Drapers’ young rising stars are Leon Blake, 11, of Beighton, and Shannon Jackson, ten, who travels from Birmingham for lessons.
They performed at the official opening of the new ballroom, attended by Raymond and Carol, who were once North of England professional ballroom champions.
Their other son Craig is also a dancer in London with his Russian wife Snezhana.
Hayley said that dancers don’t need to wear anything special, although smart shoes are a good idea.
“Trainers tend to squeak and stick on the floor so you need something with a smoother sole. People can come along in their jeans and a T-shirt though if they want to, they don’t have to dress up.”
“The way I see it is that they are already out of their comfort zone learning to dance, so making them wear something they are not happy in would only make that worse.”
“We do have a dress code for the social dances on Saturday and Sunday nights though.”
As well as ballroom and latin, Drapers also has classes in street dance, zumba and bokwa, and ballet for children.
To find out more go to www.drapersdance.co.uk.