Leeds dance-off is Strictly for charity

By John Fisher, March 29, 2012
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They could have danced all night: Jamie and Sam Warner and Gabby Wade and David Mann were the stars of the evening performance

They could have danced all night: Jamie and Sam Warner and Gabby Wade and David Mann were the stars of the evening performance

There were sequins and fake tan aplenty at Leeds Grammar School on Sunday as a Dancing Strictly contest was held in aid of charities including the Zone youth club, Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, Brodetsky Primary and the Donisthorpe home.

Ten couples, 12 group dancers and 23 Strictly Junior hoofers were cheered to the rafters by a crowd of 900. A more professional appraisal was given by Strictly Come Dancing stars Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, who were on the judging panel, along with Royal Academy of Dance examiner Gill Caplan and local comedian Howard Lee.

Ms Kopylova said she hoped to see "the whole package" from contestants, meaning elegant lines and smiling faces.

In the event, judges and audience were treated to intricate steps, daring lifts and routines saucier than a seaside postcard.

Geoffrey Skolnick and  Lynne Craster

Geoffrey Skolnick and Lynne Craster

At the matinee performance, Cassandra Sch-wartz, partnered by lead dancer Joey Gilman, tied for first place on the judges' cards, along with Gabby Wade and David Mann, who danced sexily to Whatever Lola Wants from the musical, Damn Yankees.

Sandi Firth, whose partner Mark Altman was dubbed "snake-hips" by Ms Kopylova, took the audience vote with a lively routine to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

In the evening, mother-of-three Mrs Wade pipped Ms Schwartz to the prize by the narrowest of margins. Husband-and-wife Sam and Jamie Warner won the audience award for their performance to You're The One That I Want from Grease, praised by Mr Bennett as "very character driven".

Mr Bennett - who also gave a dance demonstration with Ms Kopylova - added that Dancing Strictly had been "a fantastic event. Everything came together beautifully. So a perfect 10 for the whole presentation."

Until a few weeks ago, mum-of-three Mrs Wade's main relevant experience had been dancing to the music playing on the radio in her kitchen. She was "absolutely ecstatic" at her victory. "I had a fabulous partner in David which helped enormously and there was a wonderful camaraderie in the team."

Fellow contestant Jan Freeman said: "My mum passed away last year and I was feeling really down, so I've done this for her. I think she would have been proud." More than £30,000 was raised.

    Last updated: 3:11pm, March 30 2012