Strictly lawful dance moves

Two's company: Irwin Mitchell staff with dance partners, from the left, Adrian Budgen, Jaleh Fallah, Sophie Wood, David Body, Kevin Docherty, Victoria Coultas, Gillian Coverley, Tim Woolliscroft, Ruth Wright and Martin Loxley.  PICTURES: STEVE TAYLOR
Two's company: Irwin Mitchell staff with dance partners, from the left, Adrian Budgen, Jaleh Fallah, Sophie Wood, David Body, Kevin Docherty, Victoria Coultas, Gillian Coverley, Tim Woolliscroft, Ruth Wright and Martin Loxley. PICTURES: STEVE TAYLOR
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City lawyers have a new brief tomorrow - and it’s Strictly for charity as Jo Davison finds out

LEGAL eagles they may be, but are they as light as a feather when it comes to ballroom dancing?

Top solicitors from Sheffield law firm Irwin Mitchell are swapping their normally sober attire for sequins and spray tans - and that’s just the men - as they trade courtroom for ballroom.

Tomorrow night, as the rest of Sheffield tunes in to the latest episode of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing to cheer on home-grown twinkle-toed cricketer Michael Vaughan, an audience of over 300 will be cheering on a caseload of amateur hoofers at the City Hall Ballroom.

Seven of the company’s partners are putting on their dancing shoes for Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity’s Do Your Bit campaign.

They are starring in the charity’s first ever Weston Park Does Strictly, having been in training since July.

Professional dancers at the City Limits studios on Penistone Road, owned by Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova of Strictly fame, have teamed up with a novice apiece and the couples will be vying for a coveted glitter ball trophy.

Guests will enjoy a two-course dinner and get to vote for their favourite dancing couples. A panel of dancing experts and VIPs will be judging and Uriah Rennie will be compering, with Tess Daly-style hostessing assistance from yours truly, Jo Davison.

Dance teacher Nisha Lall has every faith in her partner, Martin Loxley from Irwin Mitchell’s family law department.

“When we first met in July I admit I thought because he was a lawyer he was going to be very serious and have two left feet. But he’s impressed me. He’s definitely got rhythm,” says Nisha, who runs her own dance school, Aim To Dance, and has been on the dancefloor since she was 10.

“We’ve had great fun, but Martin insisted on learning not only the choreography, but the techniques too. He’s really motivated and that makes him much easier to teach.” Adds the 33-year-old from Bradway: “Our routine is pretty complex but I am confident he won’t forget the steps.”

Other lawyers stepping on to the dance floor on Saturday night are Ruth Wright, who the others are tipping to win, Kevin Docherty from Irwin Mitchell’s commercial property team, Yogi Amin from public law, David Body from medical law and patients’ rights, Adrian Budgen from the asbestos-related disease team, plus Gillian Coverley from wills, trusts and probate.

Says Gillian 41: “I’m a big Strictly fan. I’ve watched it for years. When our company asked for volunteers to support the Weston Park appeal I admit I was lured in by the glamour and the glitz. I didn’t think too much about all the hard work I’d have to put in to learn the steps. It is really hard, and my previous experience has only ever stretched to dancing around my handbag at parties and weddings.”

The mum of one has struggled to fit training around career and family life. “I’m full of admiration for the celebrities who put their lives on hold to go on to the show – they make a huge commitment and learn so much,” she says.

Gillian has found a willing practice partner at home in son Adam, seven, but her professional partner is circus entertainer and dancer Tim Woolliscroft.

“The hardest thing has been in allowing him to take the lead,” says Gillian. “I’m used to being in charge of things; the other female lawyers on the floor have all said the same thing.”

She’s still glued to Strictly on the BBC: “I can actually spot some moves I know, plus I’m picking up tips from the show’s judges,” Gillian says. She’s determined, though, that her outfit won’t be anywhere near as revealing as the daringly scanty costumes worn by the likes of Denise Van Outen and Kimberley Walsh.

“I’ve had a big say in it,” she says. “It will definitely be more than a few spangles!”

Doing their bit

Weston Park Does Strictly will raise thousands for the hospital charity’s ‘Do Your Bit’ campaign, which needs to raise £1.3 million for a state-of-the-art Cancer Research and Treatment Suite.

One of only four dedicated cancer hospitals in the country, the hospital serves a population of just under 1.8million, but space is cramped.

The new building will mean more patients can be treated and enable the hospital to trial the very latest anti-cancer treatments.

Katie Cartwright, who works on business development for the charity, said: “We know the lawyers are not experienced dancers and are all extremely busy, so we really do appreciate them taking on this challenge.”

To support the campaign go to www.do-your-bit.org.uk or telephone 0114 2265370.

Saturday night fever’s gripping ‘dad dancer’ Martin

Naked ambition is taking Irwin Mitchell partner Martin Loxley from drunken dad-dancer at Baldwin’s Omega to budding Tony Manero.

He only ever thought he could dance once the clock had struck midnight and 10 pints of beer had been consumed. Now, he’s determined to waltz away with Weston Park Does Strictly’s first prize while clock-cold sober.

Martin, better known to Sheffield’s business community and the city’s family courts as a hot-shot lawyer, is today polishing his shoes and his footwork.

Come Saturday night, he will be stepping out on to the City Hall’s illuminated dancefloor with the steely determination to trounce his colleagues, dazzle the audience, wow the judging panel... and win.

“I am fiercely competitive,” he says. It’s more a boast than an admittance. “I’m not in this to come second. Friends have taken up five tables at the event; they are going to be astonished.”

He’s pretty astonished, too: “I didn’t intend for this to happen,” he says. “I was press-ganged into the contest with eyes tight-shut..

“I said yes for two reasons, because it’s utterly out of my comfort zone and I like a challenge and also because my cousin Peter Horsfield is being treated for cancer at Weston Park. That personal insight into the caring work done there is what made seven of us agree. The hospital has touched the lives of our relatives and friends at some point.”

Martin admits his previous dancing ability was a standing joke with his wife and two kids. But something happened over the last 10 weeks. Martin got the dancing bug.

His family have watched in amazement as the man who had never watched a single episode of the hit BBC show became not only a Strictly addict, but also a critic spikier, even, than Craig Revel Horwood.

“I watch the performers for tips on technique. I always thought dancing was about moving your feet. There’s so much more to it than that and I want to learn all I can. It’s the hardest activity I have ever done but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I get lost in the moment which is very de-stressing after a day at work.

That’s a bonus I never expected.”

Martin credits both his “angel of a dance partner, Nisha Lall” and his legal training for turning him into a dancefloor diva. “She says I’m a great pupil because I listen. We lawyers are trained to listen and act on instruction,” he says.

But although he can address a courtroom with utmost confidence, he readily admits he’s feeling feverish about Saturday night.

“Court is second-nature to me. This is so alien,” he says. “I am absolutely beside myself with nerves. It’s in my thoughts every day.”