When I was growing up we only had three channels on the television and around this time every year they would start showing Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire films as well as glamorous musicals – Singin’ in the Rain was one of my favourites and me and my mum and my brother and sister would all sit around the TV to watch them. I loved them!
I adored the idea of dressing up for dinner, wearing shiny shoes and dancing through the streets as my life didn’t contain any of that. So I looked forward to them for days and after watching them would dance around the living room.
It was those films that inspired me at the age of 14 to go and join the ballroom dancing classes at our local church hall. I wanted to be a dancer in the movies like Fred Astaire, but at the time I couldn’t see how I would get from a church hall in Sevenoaks in Kent to the movies in Hollywood. But from the moment I walked into that class I knew I wanted to dance for the rest of my life.
In particular I wanted to dance with the “Three Ss”, as I used to call Sarah, Sally and Samantha. They were the best dancers in my class. I was the only boy there, but as I was just a beginner I wasn’t allowed anywhere near them.
If anything was going to spur me on to improve, however, it was the thought of leading the Three Ss round the dance floor. Before starting my ballroom dancing classes I was a typical boy, running round the football pitch with my mates – being in a room full of girls on my own was fabulous.
And then, as I started to improve, I fell in love with the dancing as well as the girls. I loved the technicalities of the steps, the etiquette of the dances, the new tails suit and shiny shoes my mum saved up to get me. Suddenly, for an hour, once a week, my life was like the movies!
I wanted my life to be like that all the time, so I worked incredibly hard, particularly on improving my posture. Now I’m wonderfully postured but back then my teacher had to constantly straighten me up.
I had no idea what the world of ballroom dancing was like beyond the doors of the church hall until I went to my first national competition with my dance partner, Julie, at the Hammersmith Palais. A whole new fabulous world opened up to me and I have never looked back – although if Julie walked past me now I probably wouldn’t recognise her!