My Blackpool Ballroom Moment!
As Strictly shimmies back onto our TV screens, Val Vernon explains how the show reignited her passion for dance
Iwatched Strictly ComeDancing for years thinking, ‘those were the days’ remembering the ballroom dancing I loved to do before I left school in the 1960s and started work,” says Val Vernon. “It wasn’t until watching Strictly a couple of Christmases ago and with all my family and caring commitments completed, that I started to wonder if I could still do it.
“I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung condition that leaves me breathless and I’ve also had balance issues since fracturing bones in my feet from a fall. It wasn’t going to be easy but I decided to give it a go. I eventually booked a private lesson at the Miles School of Dancing in Henley-on-Thames.
“I tried a gentle waltz with instructor Richard Miles. As soon as I was in hold and the music started, everything came back to me in a flash!
“Richard said, ‘We have a star here!’ I laughed and told him not to be ridiculous when he suggested I should think of competing, but it just so happened that the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) had just introduced a new over 65 age category into their competitions. I protested that I didn’t even have a ballroom dress but Richard cheekily asked another pupil if she had one I could borrow. She kindly allowed me to try on a lovely blue dress at her house and it fitted beautifully. It was a real Cinderella moment!
“In April 2016 I passed the ISTD social class exam with honours and won various other competitions too. That’s how, just six months after that first lesson, I qualified to compete in the Grand Finals at Blackpool.
“My nerves kicked in big time but once I was in my
“As soon as the music started it all came back in a flash!”
gorgeous ballgown with my hair up and makeup in place I started to feel like a dancer.
“When the over 65s were called to the floor, Richard took my hand and I walked out with my head held high – and a pounding heart. The music started and off we went to the strongest tango I have ever danced. I remember looking up at the beautiful glitterballs and opulent balconies and thinking I must never, ever forget this magical moment! Happily I was actually placed in runner up position – and fourth in the rumba, too. I was so thrilled!
“Due to my COPD I have to do physio twice a day and frequently need to clear my lungs and keep an inhaler with me. Jive and quickstep is anything but easy, but 18 months ago I couldn’t have done them at all. My health has improved considerably. The improved posture expands my lungs and improves breathing. I have fewer health problems now and the ones I have are less severe. My brain is sharper and my confidence is soaring. Give it a tr y. You will smile a lot – and go home with a lighter step!”
“I told myself that I must never ever forget this magical moment!”
Val loved dancing after school in the 60s Val has won numerous dance competitions Richard proved to be a terrific teacher