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Strictly Beginners' steps to get fit

INSTEAD of sweating it out on a running machine next to people looking far less red in the face and a lot slimmer than you, grab yourself a partner and step out on to the floor.

Faced with the prospect of circuit training or the cha-cha-cha there could only ever be one choice for my wife Eleanor and I and it certainly didn't involve trainers and jogging bottoms.

Lesson one, and looking far more glamorous than you ever could in a gym, our tutor Marcel Satchell began the hard task of teaching us how to dance.

After weeks of watching Strictly Come Dancing, to which I admit I have became strangely addicted, I thought the ballroom game would be an easy one to master.

All that gliding around, with your head held high. I mean if Matt Dawson can make it look easy then it must be a doddle.

So first up was the social foxtrot, one of the simplest ballroom dances to master, according to Marcel who slowly went through the steps.

El and I were soon moving - I wouldn't call it gliding just yet - around the room.

The hardest part was avoiding treading on each other's toes and remembering your right foot from your left.

Slowly but surely we improved with the help of the ever patient Marcel, who began dancing himself as a student at Cambridge University.

We were soon moving onto the waltz, my particular favourite, and after a rocky start finally began to get the hang of it.

It felt good, the chemistry was there, I imagined we were on the way to a perfect 10 from the judges.

But after practising the six steps which make up the waltz over and over again I know why Mark Ramprakash and Emma Bunton always looked so out of breath when they finished their routines.

And it's not just the footwork you need to concentrate on - you've got your timing and posture to master as well.

After an hour-long lesson you feel like your whole body has had a good work out.

You certainly don't need to lift some weights to build up your arms muscles.

Working the dance floor with your arms in the classic ballroom pose - my right hand placed carefully below El's left shoulder blade and my left holding El's right hand high in the air - left me with a few aches and pains.

I'm not surprised that doctors are increasingly choosing to prescribe dance lessons to their patients on the NHS.

It's especially useful in treating people suffering from Parkinson's Disease and patients suffering bone degeneration.

Marcel teaches a wide variety of people, ranging from retired couples looking to master some steps before they board for a round-the-world cruise to El and myself, curious to learn to dance after spending endless Saturdays watching Mark Ramprakash and co on the television.

If you would like to learn to dance ballroom, Marcel is starting a new beginners' class on Wednesday at St Luke's School in French's Road, Cambridge, from 6.30pm-8.30pm.

Strictly Beginners will run for 10 weeks and cost £90 per person.

–  To book your place telephone Marcel on (07905) 407344.

12 January 2007

First appeared in the Cambridge Evening News
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