Strictly good fun in store at Mayor's Christmas ballBy Caroline Cook
November 16, 2010
Life’s a ball for jive champions Nicole Beckey and Simon Rich. Caroline Cook puts on her dancing shoes and finds out how they plan to help the Mayor
Never again will I watch Strictly Come Dancing from my sofa, scoff at the television and say, “Well, they’re a bit rubbish, aren’t they?”
Nor will I throw my arms in the air and loudly state that I could do better, because, well, I most definitely could not.
And after just a short lesson from the 11-times UK modern jive champions I can safely say, ballroom dancing is not quite as easy as it looks. And that is why the achievements of Nicole Beckey and Simon Rich are even more impressive.
The Wokingham-based pair, who met seven years ago on the dance floor and will soon be seen performing at the Wokingham Borough Mayor’s Christmas charity dinner, never dreamt they would twirl their way to national success becoming Modern Jive champions and working alongside some of the biggest names in the ballroom world.
With dance shows like Strictly taking off in recent years, as we took position to learn a few steps I asked the pair what the secret was to the nation’s love of ballroom.
“It’s about social interaction,” explains Simon. “Social dancing was at its biggest in the 50s and 60s and it’s a really good way of meeting people.”
Nicole agrees: “The range of people you get to meet is so varied. One minute you’ll be dancing with a professional lawyer or solicitor and the next you will be alongside a primary school teacher.”
As we chat the pair dip in and out of each other’s conversation, finishing sentences and excitedly chatting about their experiences in a way that shows they have a close relationship which has formed through years of dance halls and jive steps.
With the rumours of partnerships going beyond the dance floor which always follow shows like Strictly, I have to ask whether Nicole and Simon’s chemistry goes further than the dance hall.
“I always said I would never date my dance partner, which lasted right up until
I met Nicole,” Simon says. “When we started dancing together it was fantastic to be able to share the experience.”
The fairytale scene of eyes meeting across the ballroom became a reality for the couple who are engaged and live in a beautiful home in Wokingham, complete with their very own dance studio in the garden.
The couple are busy planning their wedding and have selected a blue and gold colour scheme to match one of the gorgeous sparkling dresses which Nicole has worn when they have competed together. And with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the dancing world filling the seats at the reception Nicole says the only thing the couple have disagreed on so far is what to do for the first dance.
Having started toe-tapping when they were barely old enough to walk Nicole and Simon have perfected their craft over the years and are used to performing in glittering costumes in front of thousands.
Trying to remember a few steps, hold a graceful position and not fall over in front of just a handful of people was difficult enough for me during our lesson, but
Simon explained that in competitive dancing there is the added challenge of other dancers who are crossing their fingers and hoping you might just fall on your face.
“We normally have between 2,000 and 3,000 people watching us and not all of the competitors want you to do well all the time,” he reveals.
Nicole adds: “It can get quite heated on the dance floor depending on the other competitors.”
As I am taught to manoeuvre my somewhat resistant feet into a twirl, the dancers, who move so naturally it is easy to imagine them waltzing along the aisles in Tesco, tell me about the latest venture they hope to add to their repertoire – a dance school in Wokingham.
Nicole says: “We are trying to open up a dance venue in Wokingham and have been working with the council to try and get that started. They’ve been fantastic in helping us.
“We want it to be a big community project and are hoping we might have it up and running within a year.”
Simon continues: “Part of the school curriculum is to get dance into schools but sometimes it can be difficult dancing in the school halls. Especially being a young lad, dance is quite hard with your peers around so it’s good when they can come out of the school environment and dance at a different venue.”
The talented couple have also launched their own DVD, Modern Jive – Learn to Dance with the Masters, which Nicole says is “young and exciting and is suitable for anyone at any stage in their life who wants to learn to modern jive”.
The DVD guides viewers through a series of fun dance lessons, which enable beginners to learn basic steps and then progress to advanced levels with intricate routines.
With DVDs, endless trophies and a dance school in the pipeline Nicole and Simon are quickly becoming the Torvill and Dean of the modern jive world and they are looking forward to performing at the Wokingham Borough Mayor, Councillor Dianne King’s, dinner dance on Saturday, December 11.
The glittering event, which is raising money for the Mayor’s charity, Berkshire Give a Child a Chance, will be a stunning evening at Sindlesham Court in Mole Road, Sindlesham.
Guests in black-tie and cocktail dresses will be able to experience the elegance of the ballroom world as Nicole and Simon take to the stage for a dazzling performance which, if my taster lesson is anything to go by, will leave the crowds wanting to put on their dance shoes and waltz off into the night.
- See Simon and Nicole at the Mayor’s dinner dance on Saturday, December 11. The evening is a community event and anyone wishing to join in the magical evening can purchase tickets from Ann-Marie Bonwick on (0118) 974 6004. Tickets cost £35 and the evening begins at 7.30pm.