Meet the stars of Sheffield Come Dancing

Sheffield Come Dancing...full group
Sheffield Come Dancing...full group
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The music swells and the glittery costumes twinkle as the spotlight falls on the Sheffield ballroom.

Ten couples wait nervously in the wings as, after weeks of rehearsals, they prepare to face-off on the dance floor.

Sheffield Come Dancing...Laura Short and Mark in rehearsals

Sheffield Come Dancing...Laura Short and Mark in rehearsals

Hours of salsa, waltz and lindy-hop, of blood, sweat and tears, all come down to this - welcome to Sheffield Come Dancing 2016.

But unlike its BBC counterpart, there are no professional partners on hand to offer a reassuring squeeze. And the cast isn’t made up of Hollyoaks stars, girlband members or newsreaders. Instead the team of 20 dancers includes a health care assistant, a Parish councillor, a student, a fireman and an archaeologist - all from South Yorkshire.

“It’s going to be an amazing night,” smiles the woman behind the charity event, Jennie Swift.

“For years I watched Strictly Come Dancing and wished I could take part, so when my fiance and I decided to host a charity fundraiser, the concept of a Come Dancing competition sprang to mind and people have really embraced the idea.”

For years I watched Strictly and desperately wished I could take part

Jennie Swift

Dance teacher Jennie, and musician fiance John, advertised for couples to take part in the Come Dancing event, which will be held at Genting Club Sheffield on July 15, and were inundated with applications.

“We were clear from the beginning that no dance experience was necessary and we’ve ended up with a really good mixture, right across the board,” says the 39-year-old.

“Our youngest participant is 19 and our eldest is 77.

“We’ve had at least three rehearsals with each of the couples and helped them choreograph routines to wow the Sheffield audience on the night. Some have a little dancing experience, so we’re mainly helping them with their routines and giving them lots of tips, while others are complete beginners and we’re teaching actual dance steps from scratch. Everybody’s doing amazingly well and having a lot of fun in the process.

Sheffield Come Dancing...Marie Hodkin and Gary in rehearsals

Sheffield Come Dancing...Marie Hodkin and Gary in rehearsals

“We have a fantastic live band who are giving up their time free of charge on the evening to play for our couples too in a variety of styles, so it’s going to be a truly entertaining night.”

Among those taking part are practice nurse Jayne May, aged 57, and her dance partner, choir singer Janice Simpson, 60, who say the entered because they didn’t want the young people to be the only ones having all the fun.

Personal trainer Valentina Mai Contarina, 24, teamed up with student Chris Brayford, 19, for the competition, while Sheffield fire service worker Steven Kay, 31, and nurse Louisa Welsby, 31, started dating a year ago and have always wanted to learn to swing dance together.

Reporter Dave Doyle, 28, and archaeologist Krissy Moore, 32, met at a lindy hop social dance three years ago and admit they’re ‘in it to win it!’

Sheffield Come Dancing...the Judges

Sheffield Come Dancing...the Judges

Lauren Mather and Lottie Bennett regularly compete in wheelchair ballroom competitions together and are keen to promote an inclusive dance world, while Frances Slater, 68, who has always wanted to learn to dance, has partnered with Treeton Parish Councillor John Swift, 77, who used to jive regularly with his wife when he was younger.

“It’s wonderful watching how everyone is progressing,” says Jennie, who has been working with the couples for the past four weeks.

“We’ve got some great numbers in the show - slow dances to songs like Wonderful World and My Girl right up to fast tempo songs like Gimme Some Loving.”

And the competition will be judged on the night by a team of entertainers and local business people, all hand-picked by the couple, who live in Kelham Island.

But while the event is guaranteed to bring plenty of cheers, and perhaps the odd bit of comedy booing for any mean judges, entertainment aside, Jennie and John are keen to raise as money as possible for Sheffield’s Archer Project.

“Both John and myself have always found ourselves lucky in life with good family support and we know there are lots of people out there who aren’t that fortunate, so we were keen to support the Archer Project and their work with vulnerable and homeless people in the city.

“It means a great deal to us that our couples are giving their time to this and embracing it, as it means we will be able to deliver a fantastic show on the night.

“We’re also thrilled to see how they’re getting into the spangly side of things, I’ve received lots of photos of glitzy shoes and dresses from some of the girls who are excited about showing off their inner Ginger Rodgers!”

Visit Event Brite and search for Sheffield Come Dancing for tickets.

Meet the judges

CHARLOTTE ARMITAGE - A freelance dance artist and community arts engagement facilitator for over 20 years.

NIAMH KAVANAGH - Hair salon owner, named this year’s Award Winning Hair Stylist for Exposed Magazine.

ANNIE SAWLE - Trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the independent drama teacher specialises in preparing students for entry into accredited Drama and Theatre schools.

PENNIE RAVEN - Entrepreneur and founder of Sheffield Soup crowd-funding event and Pecha Kucha nights.

MATT BUGG - Musician, dancer and composer with an impressive host of accolades to his name.