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Strictly Inverness 2024 diary: Is my dance partner levelling up?

By Andrew Dixon

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Ruth Mason and Giovanni Pernice.
Ruth Mason and Giovanni Pernice.

A few people commented that I hardly mentioned anything about the dancing in last week’s Strictly Inverness diary.

It wasn’t intentional, but there are limits on what we’re allowed to say in order to avoid any spoilers.

This isn’t easy though because with less than a month to go, the dancing is a consistent thought - whether that’s the two couples’ routines that dance partner Ruth Mason and I are learning or the Team Thursday group dance.

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No gain, no pain! Body waxing challenge for Strictly Inverness dancer

PICTURES: Race night and ceilidh raise more than £3200 for Strictly Inverness dancer’s pledge

It’s all supposed to be fun but there are also responsibilities attached. You don’t want to let yourself down. You don’t want to let your dance partner down. You don’t want to let your team down. You don’t want to let anyone who has supported you down. And you want to put on a good show for those who will be watching next month.

Strictly Inverness is the area's answer to the mega-popular BBC dance contest but the main difference is that people involved are volunteering their time, energy and efforts towards mastering dances - when many have never danced at any time other than on a night out or at a wedding - while generating cash for organisers and hosts Highland Hospice and Inverness Ice Centre.

None of us have let the charities down. Together, the 32 dancers have generated more than £150,000 so far and there are still fundraising events to come.

Fundraising during a cost-of-living crisis is not easy. Learning to dance is not easy. None of this is easy, but it is worth it.

PICTURES: Strictly Inverness star Craig’s ceilidh boost fundraiser for Highland Hospice and ice centre

Twin plays poignant tribute to Tain stalwart Alasdair Rhind as Strictly Inverness dance fundraiser goes ahead

Tickets for charity dance competition Strictly Inverness to go on sale

It is worth it because we know our efforts will make a positive difference for people. Also, I’d like to think many of the friendships we’ve made will not end when the winners are crowned on May 11.

Before then, there is more work to be done. That work will happen at scheduled sessions with our tutors, extra training opportunities at the ice centre and in kitchens, gyms, workplaces, parks, car parks, anywhere where there might be the opportunity to repeat a few steps with or without your dance partner.

I’ve found that now I have an idea of the full choreography for each dance, I’ll replay it in my head while laying in bed trying to get to sleep. I don’t know if that’s normal but hopefully it’s useful.

Andy Dixon and Ruth Mason at the race night.
Andy Dixon and Ruth Mason at the race night.

In terms of our dancing, it’s been a different type of week. Ruth missed the group dance because she was staging a fundraising ceilidh at Hootananny in Inverness (less than 24 hours after holding a race night at the Westerlea Hotel in Nairn - thank you to anyone who supported either event because together they generated more than £3200 for charity).

Andy Dixon and Ruth Mason at the ceilidh.
Andy Dixon and Ruth Mason at the ceilidh.

Ruth’s absence from group training led to the most special moment of this experience so far for me when my eldest was allowed to step in and perform the routine with me for one run though. She’s only eight years old but she loved the chance to be included and the reaction of the rest of the people in Team Thursday, including tutor Laura Johnston-Scott, will stay with me (and her) for a long time. I thank them all.

Later that day, Ruth was back on the dancefloor for rumba practice swiftly after wrapping up the ceilidh and we managed to get through the whole dance for the first time. It was a relief. It also means we can now focus on sharpening all aspects of it.

Unfortunately Ruth missed samba training (so she could go watch Giovanni, guest judge at the Strictly Inverness final, perform at Eden Court - is she trading me? She tells me it was a very inspiring show so I know Ruth will want to do all she can to make sure she can dance in front of Giovanni at the final) and that meant I had a completely new dance partner who I’d never met. Dancing with a stranger was strange but she was a really, really great dancer. Tutor Claire Darcy might have stepped in if not for an injury but she was still there to offer advice. Now, I need to listen and execute changes, while continuing to trust the process.

Meanwhile, there are still ways to support this fundraising campaign. I have a body waxing challenge at The Therapy Suite next Saturday. That beauty salon, along with Bikes of Inverness, the Forge Gym in Inverness and MKM Building Supplies in Aviemore are also displaying posters for the Strictly Raffle and selling tickets (£1 each) on my behalf to anyone interested.

The event will be at The Therapy Suite.
The event will be at The Therapy Suite.

And there’s also the hospice spring auction. I was blessed to receive a donation of a two-night stay at a five-bedroom mini manor at Achnagairn Estate, which sleeps 10 people. Please have a look at lot #38 and leave a bid if you wish. There are plenty more lots connected with fellow dancers so it’s worth a wee browse while you’re there.

It has been so uplifting to receive similar encouragement and support, which I'm sure other dancers would echo and as a group, with the last few weeks of fundraising remaining, we’ve collectively raised more than £158,300 - which is incredible.

Team Thursday (AKA The Dream Team!). Picture: Callum Mackay
Team Thursday (AKA The Dream Team!). Picture: Callum Mackay
Team Friday (AKA The Dream Team!). Picture: James Mackenzie
Team Friday (AKA The Dream Team!). Picture: James Mackenzie

All the fundraising activities coming up that I'm aware of are here:

• For Shaun Rose and Kenna Ross: Prize bingo, April 14, Café V8, Inverness

• For Neil Pirritt: Rock ‘n’ roll bingo, April 19, Chieftain Hotel, Inverness

• For Andy Dixon: Body waxing challenge, April 20, The Therapy Suite, Inverness

• For Ailsa Campbell: Domino tournament, April 20, Conon Hotel, Dingwall

• For Jason Kelman and Shireen Fyffe + Sean MacIver and Niamh Mcauley: Dirty Dancing dance workshop, April 20, Inverness Town House

• For Lesley Clark: Burlesque spring fling, April 20, Upstairs, Inverness

• For Clare MacDonald: 'His' & 'Hers' evening delight, April 20, Kirkhill Community Centre

• For Robert Ince: Community Mini Market, April 20, Tesco car park, Dingwall

• For Jackie Sutherland: Row, ride and roar, April 20, Bannatyne Health Club and Spa, Inverness

• For Craig Watson: Quiz, April 27, Farr Hall, Inverarnie

• For Robert Ince: Tipsy tea party, April 27, Dingwall Legion Hall

• For Stefan Robertson: Big finale fundraiser race night, April 27, Beaufort Hotel, Inverness

I'll aim to update the events list each week.

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