A PE teacher was crowned the winner of Strictly Northampton 2015 in front of a sell-out audience at Derngate on Saturday night.
Thirty-year-old Bryce Lang from Caroline Chisholm School (CCS) and his semi-professional dance partner, Emma Shipton, were awarded the glitter ball trophy in the charity contest, in aid of Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton, and said they’d had the time of their lives.
Mr Lang, who is a specialist PE primary school teacher, said: “I am so proud to have done this in front of my family and friends and it’s been such great fun with all these guys.
“As part of my teaching role at CCS, we entered two teams into the junior strictly competitions last year. Inspired by the children, I thought it was time to challenge myself to learn a new skill and be as brave as them to dance in front of 1,000 people.
“My life has always revolved around sport so I never thought dancing would be for me, but wow, I have fallen in love with the challenge, physical demands, team work and, of course, the sparkle.”
More than 1,200 people watched them and the 22 other couples perform a jive, American smooth waltz and group freestyle routine at the show, which was organised by Step by Step Dance School in Northampton and headline sponsored by Aspers Casino.
Former BBC1 Strictly Come Dancing dancer Robin Windsor was among the judges of the event, which was the sixth Strictly Northampton to take place.
He said: “I have judged lots of these charity strictlies across the country and this has been the most well put together one I have done. It is absolutely wonderful and for a great cause.
“Dancing is the most therapeutic thing you can do and I urge anyone who has not tried it before to give it a go. You can have all sorts of things going on in your life, happy or sad, but when you get on that dance floor you forget everything for those two minutes.
“It takes courage to do what these people, who have never danced before, to get onstage before this audience. Even the professionals get nervous.”
The evening was compered by ITV’s Daybreak weather presenter and former Duston Upper School pupil, Laura Tobin, who was a former finalist in Strictly Northampton 2012, and Northampton’s Mark Dean, Inspiration FM and BBC Radio Northampton presenter.
Laura said: “I loved taking part in Strictly Northampton three years ago; it was fantastic and such great fun. I fell in love with the dancing, made some great friends through it and it didn’t matter who won. This year, I can see the same spirit in the team here and the whole group gets on really well.”
The evening began with a dance off between children from Caroline Chisholm School and Lings School, who were competing for the title of Dancing Schools UK. The team of judges, Robin Windsor, international salsa dance teacher Benavidez-Glasspole and Image magazine editor and Strictly Northampton 2011 winner, Ruth Supple, chose CCS as the winner.
Contestants, some of whom had never danced before, then had to waltz and jive in front of the judges and audience, before performing group freestyle routines. A mixture of the judges’ scores and text voting put six couples through to the final round.
While the scores were toted up, the audience was treated to a fabulous show dance from SBS’s founder Andrzej Mialkowski and European ProAm Ten Dance champion, Jo Wittich.
And John Helm, fundraising manager of Cynthia Spencer Trust, made a speech thanking Strictly Northampton for helping raise so much money for their cause.
He said: “Next year, Cynthia Spencer celebrates its 40th year and, in the three years Strictly Northampton has raised a fantastic £170,000 for us. That means more people can get the specialist care they need in their homes and hopefully we can carry on delivering that for them for the next 40 years.”
As well as the main trophy, a number of other awards were made on the evening, including one to the contestant who had raised most money for the charity. That went to Bipin Patel, owner of Ecton Brook Newspapers & Post Office, who raised more than £4,000 on his dancing journey.