My Black­pool Ball­room Mo­ment!

As Strictly shim­mies back onto our TV screens, Val Ver­non ex­plains how the show reignited her pas­sion for dance

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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

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