There’s nothing more graceful than watching ballroom dancers glide across the floor, making the steps to a waltz or a foxtrot look simple.
Ballroom, or sequence, dancing is anything but easy. It takes practice (lots of), dedication and passion.
Strictly Come Dancing has catapulted the pastime into the UK’s mainstream culture, but long before it became popular on Saturday night prime time telly, David and Eileen Sharp were the perfect partners for a technical tango or a sizzling samba.
The dance teachers, who have been married for 30 years, have been spinning, twirling and pirouetting together since their teens and are once again getting seriously back into the swing of modern dance.
Former electronic engineer David (51) has been a teacher for 24 years and is currently on a career break from being principal teacher of pupil support at Lornshill Academy in Alloa to devote more time to his labour of love.
Eileen (52) is the perfect tonic for their sore feet when they’ve been tearing up the dancefloor being a podiatrist.
She is also the practice education lead for allied health professionals at NHS Forth Valley.
The Grangemouth couple have danced at ballroom’s Mecca in Blackpool at the Tower and the Winter Gardens, but they are off to Southport during the Easter weekend to compete in the North of Britain Inventive Dance Open – part of the Southport Easter Dance Festival organised Carol and Peter Parry.
Eileen said: “We compete in three inventive dance competitions each year, which are organised by the different dance associations and we are associate members of the British Association of Teachers of Dance.
“The first competition we entered we were both a bit nervous, but we are now getting a bit more used to dancing in front of lots of people and on larger dance floors.
“The format is that dance teachers devise new dance routines, which have to be 16 bars long, and dance them in front of everyone at the competition and are then judged. The winning dance script is then made available for everyone to dance.
“We are currently working on three dances for Southport. A foxtrot, a saunter and a jive. They’ve got lots of the ballroom and Latin basics in them, but we’ve put a few variations in to make them a bit different so here’s hoping they go down well.”
The foxtrot, which is Eileen’s favourite, is an elegant dance with lots of flowing movements and is uber smooth when danced to a big band or some Frank Sinatra.
David prefers the modern waltz, which oozes class with its rise and fall and sway, but the pair find dancing is also a way to escape the humdrum of modern life and they want to spread the joy.
David said: “We have always danced together since teenagers at a social level, but we stopped when we had our family and our careers took up a lot of time. We always said we would go back to it when the girls, Kathryn and Joanne, were older.
“We started back again in 2011 at Alastair and Jean Inverarity’s class at Bowhouse Community Centre and Alastair and Jean both encouraged us to go for our dance teacher’s exam.
“We find it is relaxing and a stress buster. When the music goes on and you start dancing nothing else matters but you and your partner on the dance floor. It’s also something we can do together and is a great way to exercise, meet new people and keep mentally alert.
Dancing is great for both our mental and physical health and wellbeing. As dance teachers we enjoy seeing beginners starting and improving and seeing their enjoyment in dancing together, as well as helping experienced dancers refine their skills and learn more challenging steps and routines.
“As teachers we enjoy taking to the floor and inventing new routines, which we also enter into modern sequence dance competitions, and also love seeing the pleasure that others get from dancing.”
David and Eileen have been teaching classes for five years through their class D & E Dancing, concentrating on helping learners take their first tentative steps and become comfortable dancing together.
David added: “The hardest step we have found for most people – normally the man – is the first step into the hall, but once the dancing bug bites getting the rest falls into place.
“We have not put forward anyone for medals and competitions yet but this is something we would be happy to do as many of our dancers are capable of this.
“The most important thing we believe, however, is that people enjoy dancing and we are able to help them improve.”
Current classes are held in Grangemouth’s Bowhouse Primary School on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the ballroom and sequence basics where people can learn new steps or improve techniques.
There’s also a class in Alloa Academy on a Wednesday, while Fridays at Linlithgow’s Lowport Centre is a weekly modern sequence dance.
On the first Saturday of every month they hold a social sequence and ballroom dance in the Kirk of the Holy Rood Church hall in Grangemouth.
Classes are available for all abilities.