By LOUISE THOMASON
Last week we met eight of the participants in the eagerly-anticipated Strictly CLAN Dancing event. This week it is time to introduce the remaining contestants: BBC Radio Shetland’s John Johnston and dancer Lena Miller, Lara Thomason and dancer James Ward, isles MSP Tavish Scott and dance teacher Diane Watt and Shane Jamieson and dancer Michelle Stove.
Shane and Michelle are the youngest dancers in the competition – both are 17.
Michelle has been dancing for around three months. She has mainly danced Shetland and traditional dancing but got into ballroom after her bosses, David and Lillian Leslie from Laxfirth farm, asked her if she’d like to come to dancing classes.
“I’ve done a bit of Shetland dancing before my bosses asked me to come along and be involved,” she said.
The pair are dancing the waltz, quick step and cha cha, although they may have a surprise in store for the audience on the night, depending how the competition goes.
Michelle said they haven’t learnt the cha cha yet but they enjoy doing the quick step because it is faster than the waltz. “It’s really good fun, I’m really enjoying it,” she said.
“It’s an experience!” Shane joked. Shane’s mother is CLAN chairwoman Elaine Jamieson. “I got roped in to it,” he said phlegmatically.
Lara and James are also learning the waltz, quick step and cha cha. James, who works in the technical department at the Anderson High School, has been dancing for around 10 years. He dances at the Scalloway dance club and also at Islesburgh on a Wednesday.
He has done a bit of ballroom dancing in the past through both clubs and also some professional training to become a tutor.
“This is sequence dancing so it’s a peerie bit different,” James said. “We’re doing some new sequences so we’re both having to learn. There’s a name for everything, it’s a lot to mind.”
However, so far things are going well. Lara said: “I’m really enjoying it. It’s fine to learn something new.”
“Finding time to practice has been the main worry, but we’re practicing about two times a week,” said James.
Although the night will be fun, there are clearly some nerves among the group.
James said: “I’m a bit apprehensive about it. It’s the same for everybody though. It’s maybe a bit better for some of the [dance] teachers. There’s not a lot of serious competition though, we’re just in it for a good cause and for a fun.”
Lara said: “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be really nervous on the night but it’ll be good. It should attract a big audience, of all ages. It’s a big commitment, but if it wasn’t enjoyable I don’t think the commitment would be there. Everybody gets on well too.”
All the pracice does have a downside however. Lara said: “Dancing in high heeled shoes for hours at a time a couple of times a week is a challenge! My ankles are aching.”
After initially not getting much practice, Lena said of her and John’s progress: “We’re getting on much better now. John has never danced before so I think we’re doing quite well. We’re coming on leaps and bounds.”
They have been learning the waltz and are moving on to the quick step this week, which is causing them a few problems.
Lena joked: “The quick step is very fast. I think it would be a good cure for Alzheimer’s, your brain and your feet have to work so quickly! It’s a lot to learn. We’ve only got four weeks left to learn all the dances.” The practice is clearly having an effect on John. He said: “I’m so spaegied after all the exercise. Muscles that I didn’t know I had are sore!”
The pair are looking forward to competition night and hoping just to have fun. John said: “We’re going to do our best and see what happens, we’re not taking it too seriously.”
Lena said: “We’re just going to make a fun of it, and if we end up falling or doing something silly it’ll be make the audience laugh anyway!”
Tavish has been paired with dance instructor Diane Watt and seems to be fairly confident of their progress: “We’re getting there, it just needs practice,” he said.
Although not unfamiliar with dancing, having done “more Boston two-steps than I would care to think of”, Tavish said he was quite nervous about the night itself.
“I think there’ll be a degree of trepidation,” he said. “My best hope is that, just as we’re about to start, all the lights go out and we get through the whole first routine without anybody actually seeing. Then the lights come up just as we finish and there will be tumultuous applause and the judges give it a top mark! That would be my dream scenario.”
Joking aside, he said: “It’ll be fine, it’s obviously a tremendously good cause and I hope lots of folk come along and have a good laugh at the amateurs’ expense.”
The couple are learning the waltz, cha cha and quick step and have Diane’s experience to help them as she has been dancing “for years”.
She said: “I did it as a child, I learned ballroom dancing at the school.”
Asked if, as the instructor, she has any idea who might win, Diane said: “We really don’t have any idea. If it was judged on the dancing then I could have a better idea, but you don’t know. It’s anybody’s guess.”
Tavish said: “Because we’re competing with a garage owner and half of Vidlin, I’ve asked Alex Salmond for half the Scottish budget to try and compete with them so we’ll see how we get on.”
And what was his answer? “I think no.”
Meanwhile, the CLAN appeal held two successful “corporate” dinners on Friday and Saturday nights at the Shetland Hotel, with all the proceeds from the tables and raffles going to the charity.
Brudolff Hotels provided all the food and drink and paid for the comedian Stan Boardman to travel north to entertain the guests.
Mrs Jamieson said she was delighted with the response. For more details, see page 14.