I love Strictly Come Dancing. It’s the perfect thing to cheer up dull autumn days, with its mix of glamour, competition and fascinating journeys of personal growth and discovery. Each year, the start of Strictly – just like the beginning of a new series of Doctor Who – is one of the signs that autumn is here and we’re in the run up to Christmas.
I’ve danced Latin and Ballroom on and off since 2002. Albeit with more enthusiasm than talent. It’s something I adore doing, and always wanted to do as a child (though my parents couldn’t afford lessons). My primary school used to do English country dancing (though a suspicious number of ceilidh dances and American square dances seemed to sneak into the mix) and it was one of my favourite things, even if I had to dance with Kevin diMarco (he had horrible scaly hands and his face would go red when he danced, which clashed with his ginger hair). So I had to come to dance lessons later in life, filled with dreams of being Tara Morice in a ruffled red dress with Paul Mercurio doing a dramatic knee slide across the floor.
I’m not someone who has ever experienced the alleged endorphin rush one is supposed to experience from exercise (I just feel hot, sweaty and uncomfortable), but dance lifts my spirits and gives me a buzz like no other. I’ve danced my way through break ups, and even after a dance school weekend away, and several classes in a short space of time found myself having a near-religious experience on the dance-floor at an office Christmas party. One of those moments where self is completely sublimated, time seems to slow and there is just music and movement. And no, I hadn’t been drinking. And I hadn’t taken anything. But it was awesome.
But my dancing has definitely been more off than on recently. Since moving back to London it’s been difficult to fit it round work and the rest of my social life, and I’ve struggled to find a class with timing that suits my schedule since my last class was cancelled as numbers dwindled. But I can say I’ve danced with a Strictly professional. One of the owners of my local dance school, JJ’s, is John Byrnes, who danced with Claire Sweeney back in the heady days of series 1 (they were eliminated in week 5).
All of that makes me a terrible person to watch Strictly with. I’m that person with just enough knowledge to be a dance bore, but at risk of embarrassing myself in front of anyone with proper knowledge.
So, in honour of Strictly starting again tonight, here’s my fantasy playlist if I were ever to dance on the show.
ChaCha – A very easy one, even though the ChaCha is a very crowded field. This is my song. In These Shoes by Kirsty MacColl.
Waltz – A satirical song about BDSM is perhaps not entirely appropriate for prime-time Saturday night telly, but it has to be Bang Goes The Knighthood by the Divine Comedy. If they won’t let me have that (boring!) then it would be Eddi Reader’s love song to Glasgow dance halls: Wings On My Heels.
Quickstep – Mr Blue Sky by ELO. Possibly the happiest and most smile-inducing song ever.
Jive – Sweet Home Alabama. Nothing like a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd to mix things up.
Samba – Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones. Yes, it really does have a samba rhythm. If it’s still banned by the BBC I’ll obviously need to think again. In which case it’s Us Amazonians by Kirsty MacColl.
Tango – I’m a bit old school when it comes to my tangoes. So it will have to be Por Una Cabeza. You may recognise it as the tango from Scent of a Woman and True Lies.
Rumba – We haven’t had any cricket pop on Strictly yet, so it’s The Nightwatchman by the Duckworth Lewis Method.
Foxtrot – Moondance by Van Morrison.
Viennese Waltz – The Bed Song by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. A Viennese Waltz that will break your heart.
Paso Doble – Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. You need a big thrashy noise and a driving beat for paso, and this delivers in spades.
American Smooth – Probably Diana Krall’s Peel Me A Grape.
Salsa – It’s a party dance, so it needs a party song. And the ultimate party song is Groove Is In The Heart by Dee-Lite.