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A fairytale ending to the dance of love

Posted on March 12, 2013

web paul wendy

web-paul-wendyLittle did we know when we were asked by St Francis Hospice to teach 40 people dance routines in the rumba and the quickstep that this would be a part of a fairytale ending to a three-year love story.

The Hospice of St Francis cares for patients with a wide range of life-threatening illnesses, many in their last days, and is well known in Hertfordshire as an organisation that can be relied upon to assist families at these difficult times. Our involvement with the hospice came about when the hospice needed dance teachers to help them run a fundraising dance competition in 2010. 

We jumped in feet first and have enjoyed every moment of this charitable work each year since. This year was the third competition we have taught for the hospice and was to be perhaps the most memorable. Unbeknown to us, one of the dancers intended to “pop the question” to his girlfriend of three years at the end of 
their rumba.

web-vicky-and-andyWe began our six-week training period in January, with the grand finale timetabled for Saturday, February 23. It was not easy to create a dance suitable to be taught to dancers and non-dancers alike. There had to be sufficient difficulty in the choreography so that the judges could pick a winner, yet all the dancers needed to be able to tackle the dance at a level that would entertain an audience. 

More than 500 friends and relatives of the dancers were to attend the final and cheer and encourage their chosen couple. Fake tan, make-up and mascara filled the changing room, and that was just the men; ladies donned ballgowns, catsuits and many different colourful costumes. 

Some of the couples chose a comedy style for their dances; others performed more or less “strictly ballroom”. The quickstep allowed the dancers to mimic in dress and styling the age of the flappers, the 1920s, with several couples chosing to begin and end their quickstep with a few Charleston moves. 

web-kevin-miss-elkinsThe rumba, the classic “dance of love”, was far more seductive and expressive and it was this dance, as the evening drew to a close, that Paul Moran and Wendy Harrap (pictured top) performed in matching, home-sewn Latin outfits. As the music ended Paul took Wendy by the hand gently, dropped on to one knee and asked if she would be his wife. She smiled, cried tears of joy and said yes. The judges gave a standing ovation as Paul took a beautiful diamond ring and placed it on Wendy’s ring finger. It is not an exaggeration to say that at least half of us wept tears of joy. 

This romantic interlude, and the competition as a whole, made us realise that a hospice is far more than just a place for sick people. It is also a place where new beginnings may be made. Through this competition many new friendships have been created. Many of the couples have continued to learn to dance with local dance schools and, most important of all, the sponsored dancers collected more than £25,000 to help with care for patients at the Hospice of St Francis, Berkhamsted.


Photographs © Hawkeye Photography


Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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