Wow! What an amazing day!

We had such a great time with Amy and her team on Sunday 4th July. Although we were all quite nervous beforehand, we were quickly put at ease by Amy’s charming personality. She may be a celebrity but was very humble and down to earth, not to mention also being a fabulous teacher too! Here is the breakdown of our day.

Morning Workshop – Kids

When the kids arrived they were all very quiet, slightly starstruck from being in a room with Amy Dowden from Strictly! It didn’t take them very long to warm up though. Amy started by teaching her Strictly warm up dance, which the kids all picked up quickly. We’ll definitely be using this one at the start of class. We then split into two groups, with the three little ones doing some Cha Cha with Amy’s assistant Josh and the rest learning a new Cha Cha routine with Amy and her assistant Skye. The routine contained some difficult steps that most of our students hadn’t danced before but they took in their stride and worked hard to get it right. We then did ‘Show and Tell Time’ and each group danced to the music for the others to watch. We then learnt two new freestyle dances, our favourite being to Firework by Katy Perry. After a quick drink, we practiced some Jive technique before sitting down for a Q & A with Amy. Here is what the kids asked and what Amy replied.

Q – Why did you start dancing?

A – My parents had a caravan in Cornwall. It was my birthday and there was a little disco dancing competition going on so I thought I’d have a go. I ended up winning, I think it was because I had a big birthday badge on, but I loved it. I loved the music, I loved the spotlights, the attention, the trophy and I begged my parents to take me dancing and that was it then. Me and my twin sister started and then it took over my life, I loved it.

Q – What’s your favourite dance?

A – My favourite dance is the Jive on Strictly because its such a crowd pleaser. Dancing with my partner and my fiancé its the Rumba.

Q – How many dance partners have had?

A – On Strictly, 4. And then I danced with my twin sister to begin with and then I had another partner Gino when I was a little bit older, in my teens. I danced with somebody called Tom, I was in my late teens early 20s and then my fiancé Ben. So 4 in total.

Q – Who has been your favourite Strictly judge?

A – Oh, I like then all, I can’t a favourite I don’t think. And honestly Craig isn’t as nasty as he comes across tele, backstage he’s lovey. When he sits in that chair he puts in professional hat on. They’re all lovely, I could’t pick a favourite honestly! I love them all.

Q – What was the hardest dance you had to learn?

A – The hardest dance for me would probably be the Argentine Tango with Karim on Strictly because the timing is totally different, the lead, the hold so I couldn’t help in any way. I had to trust that Karim knew his timing and his steps, which he did. Its a style that as Latin American and Ballroom dancers that we not familiar to.

Q –  What’s your favourite dress you’ve worn on Strictly?

A – Thats a tough one! I liked Argentine Tango dress actually with all the diamonds. I think my Waltz or Viennese Waltz dress that I wore with JJ last year, I thought it was a bit like Belle.

– Will you be my friend?

A – Of course I’ll be your friend! Of course, absolutely, it’d be an honour!

– Why do you like dancing?

A – I just love it. I just get lost in the music, it takes me away from all my worries, I just love it love it. I love to perform, I love to try and make people happy. I just love everything about it, the costumes, the makeup, the fitness element and dancing with somebody, the adrenaline, the buzz it gives me. It just makes me super happy.

– What’s your favourite animal?

A – My favourite animal. Monkeys! Cause I kinda live with one, Ben.

Q – What dance do you think has the hardest technique?

A – The Rumba. Because it’s slower it highlights your weaknesses, you’ve got to really understand the fundamentals, the body actions, the timings, the connections. I would definitely say the Rumba.

Q – Do you prefer Ballroom or Latin?

A – I prefer Latin. I was a Latin Champion, so I stopped Ballroom when I was about 21 to progress as a latin dancer and I was lucky enough then to become British Champion. Latin is where my heart is. I love Ballroom as well but Latin is my personal favourite.

Finally we sat down to enjoy a Ballroom and Latin demonstration by the lovey Josh and Skye before having photos taken with Amy. Overall the children had lovely day and were absolutely buzzing for hours after!

Afternoon Workshop – Adults

The adult workshop ran in a very similar way to the morning session, although the adults seemed even more nervous than the kids! At this point Amy was joined by another two assistants, Jamie and Jess. We again started with Amy’s Strictly warm up and then moved onto the Cha Cha. Amy used a very similar routine as used with the kids but went into detailed technique for each step. At one point she had us dancing Cha Cha walks and locks down the whole length on the hall. And if you haven’t seen the sports hall at CLC Health and Fitness Centre, I’m not exaggerating when I say its huge! Huge! All of our toes, feet and ankles were aching, but as Amy said, if you’re not aching your not doing right! Once we’d learnt the routine and practiced our technique, we danced it through to music before sitting down for the Q and A session. Here is what was asked and what Amy answered.

Q – Can we know the date of the wedding?

A – It’s been postponed for a year now. We might of found a date next year, although it wasn’t the one I wanted. I wanted 25th of July because that was my grandparents wedding anniversary, that doesn’t look like it will happen now. So fingers crossed really. I’m trying to not get my hopes up now because last year I was like distraught and then when it got cancelled I thought oh here we go again.

Q – Do you still have the wedding dress and do you still like it?

A – I still have the wedding dress and I hope I still like it, I hope it still fits.

Q – Have you tired the dress on in between?

A – No, I just want to cry.

Q – Out of all your venues that you’ve competed at, apart from Blackpool, what’s your favourite?

A – Royal Albert Hall was quite special, International championships. And also in Paris, a venue there, the atmosphere was pretty special too. The Royal Albert Hall, at every other comp I’m dancing towards you guys as a audience but there’s people on all the walls and up in the stands, just volumes of people. And you come from these stairs, and literally at the last step your on the dance floor and its just like wow. You know what I mean,  just for a second you thing ah I can’t breathe. And obviously the Strictly dance floor is pretty magical.

Q – How do you calm your nerves?

A – I think nerves are good. The day I’m not nervous is the day I hang my dance shoes up because to me it shows I don’t care anymore. I think its not controlling them, its accepting and thinking right these butterflies are good and getting on with them, them becoming your friend. Shake it off. I learnt that its a good thing, it shows that I care. Waiting backstage when the VT is on, my heart is beating out of my chest but when the music is on you just forget everything else. And then once you come off your like I just want to do it again, but don’t cause you’d be in the dance off!

Q – How do you calm your celebrity partners nerves?

A – Everyone’s been different. They’re always shaking, and I always say give me two strong arms or a strong frame and I can help lead. But its getting used to what they need. Brain needed to be a chatterbox, cuppa tea all day, whereas Danny liked to do his own thing, to Karim he was like a bottle of pop and I had to be like calm down otherwise he’d run out of energy. So JJ, because of the marines he was really disciplined and we had our own little routine. Its just getting used to what they need. So Brian needed distraction but JJ needed to focus on it. Everyone’s different.

Q – If you could dance with anyone, past or present, who would it be?

A – I always say thing, Hugh Jackman. And I wouldn’t mind dancing with Prince William, I’m not sure about his Latin but I think his Ballroom would be good, he’d have a good frame. And that’d be pretty cool to dance with a royal.

Q – Can you change the music if you don’t like it on the Monday?

A – Not really no. So we’ll go in with our own ideas, so I go i with a list. I find out who my partner is and then I go with the entire series mapped out how I’d like it, and then they’ll be like no, no, not going to happen so then I’ll argue a little bit. We have a Friday meeting every week, I’ll put my ideas forwards and so will the creative directors and producers and then we come to a collective decision. Sometimes the decision is taken for us, it could be the music licensing, it can be the tracks been used before, another couple has already requested or they think it will work better for another couple. And you know the show has got the best interest in you and your partner, so you’ve always got to trust that they’ll get it right. Production are amazing to work with, they really are. Sometimes they’ll come forward with an idea, and you think why didn’t I think of that it’s brilliant!

Q – In training is it just you and the celebrity or are there other people too?

A – Do you want to know the weekly breakdown? I’ll give you my year with Karim. On a Monday morning we do pro rehearsal, 8.30 – 1.30 at Elstree. I’d get a car to the train station and get on the train to Manchester, get there by 5 or 6. Karim would still be at work until 8.30. Then we’d train 8.30 – 10.00 but that would be when we’d sit down and have a look back at the weekend. That one minute 30 second VT you see takes hours and hours of filming. On a Tuesday we’d train all day. On a Wednesday they’re say, oh you going to the zoo because that’s going to help you practice your samba?! And then you might have to wiz back to be on It Takes Two. So Karim and I, say we were on It Takes Two on a Wednesday, we’d get the 2 o’clock train, do It Takes Two, get the last train back to Manchester cause he’d be on CBBC again the next day. We’d train on Thursday again and get the train back to London. Friday you go into the studio and you just get 3 goes to music. The first one is generally a write off because you’ve got cameras running round you and the celebs think they’re going to hit them but they’re not. You’ve got spotlights, you’ve got confetti, you name it. The second you get a little bit better, but generally you feel like oh my goodness how is this going to come together by tomorrow. And it doesn’t matter how good or bad its gone you only get 3 goes because its fair and they’re on a tight schedule. I’d then go to fittings and we’d see our costumes for the first time, we’d go to press and radio interviews. We’d do an hour pro camera blocking for the pro number. Back home and the next morning its show day. Thats when we do it for the first time in costume, two goes in the morning with band and then before you know it your live to the audience. On Sunday its our job as pros to choreograph for the Monday, so a quick turn around. Very often people think you get a whole week to train, your lucky is you get about 3 days because of all the filming that goes on and the celebrities are still working and if they’re not in London travelling takes up a lot of time.

We then watched another beautiful Ballroom and Latin demonstration from Jamie and Jess and then of course all had photos taken with Amy.

It was such a lovely day and one we will definitely never forget! Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again next year!