By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS Clickimin had never seen anything like it. Folk started queuing at 3pm on Saturday to get a front seat for the evening fundraiser Strictly CLAN Dancing, based on the eponymous BBC TV series.
Glitzy, glamorous and professional, the Strictly CLAN Dancing spectacular at Clickimin was a blockbuster, raising more than £14,000 for the CLAN 1,2,3 appeal on the night and more than £21,000 including ticket sales.
Nine hundred tickets had been sold in 40 minutes“ faster than tickets for Michael Jackson said CLAN fundraising manager Susan Crighton, who had travelled from Aberdeen to see the show“ and the eventual audience was more than 1,000.
It had all the ingredients of a great night“ entertaining, educational (we learned the origins of the tango and the fact that the close contact of the waltz was once considered controversial) and inspirational as we saw novices transformed into passable dancers. The evening was full of suspense, too, as we waited to see who would survive the rounds and who would emerge victorious. Above all it was a winner for CLAN, with a boost to the 1,2,3 appeal which aims for one charity to take two years to raise £3 million for a new cancer support centre in Aberdeen.
Dancers looked gorgeous in their finery, the women with floaty sequinned dresses, their hair curled and graced with spangly tiaras, the men elegant in evening suits. The sports hall had been transformed into a dance venue complete with disco ball, coloured lights and spotlights, and events were relayed by technical wizardry to an overflow audience, watching on screens in the bowls hall.
The evening was compered by CLAN chairwoman Elaine Jamieson and fellow committee member Cecil Smith, who did a splendid job with puns and jokes worthy of TV’s Bruce and Tess.
In the first round the eight couples, each comprising one local “professional” and one local “celebrity”, danced their choice of either waltz or quickstep. Tension mounted as general manager of Shetland Charitable Trust Ann Black and her dance teacher partner Graeme Halcrow took the floor, waltzing to the strains of Edleweiss played by the specially assembled seven-piece Alan Nicolson Orchestra.
The couples then, as on TV, were awarded marks out of 10 by the four judges“ George Henderson, Diane Leyland, Wilma Halcrow and Allison Duncan“ who held up score cards, to either cheers or disappointment from the punters.
Dancers then had to endure their candid comments“ “I can see why you took early retirement”, one dancer was told, to “boo” from the audience“ and wait for the public’s verdict. This was done by putting pound coins in the appropriately marked buckets, the heaviest of which would determine who would go through to the next round.
The interval provided more thrills, with budding star Francesca Leyland singing Memories and Reflections and an impressive display of dancing from Feet First.
Radio Shetland’s John Johnston and his partner Lena Miller and accountant James Hutton and partner Marilyn Harris were eliminated first, to be “interviewed” by the comperes.
They were followed in the second round by Tavish Scott, who was told he had a good physique for dancing (he said later that being judged had been more excrutiatingly embarrassing than addressing a packed parliament) and his dance teacher Diane Watt (the couple would have come on faster than the Lib Dems if they had had more practice, one judge said). AHS head teacher Valerie Nicolson and partner Jim Grains were also out at this stage.
The audience was then treated to a foxtrot display from Diane Watt and Graeme Halcrow.
In spite of one contestant being likened by a judge to “a hen scraping in a midden” and another said to be “tripping along like a Shetland pony”, four couples were deemed competent enough to go on to perform their choice of tango or cha cha.
Outfits were quickly changed and more delightful dresses“ in jewel colours, short or long, with net overskirts or rows of fringes“ appeared.
In the third round Lara Thomason, in short white floaty dress with black straps and sash, and her partner James Andrew Ward performed a splendid tango“ “smooth, fluent and full of fire”, according to the judges.
More sartorial delights came in the cha cha from Maddie Maddison in purple velvet breeks (from the CLAN shop, he later revealed) and his partner Radio Shetland’s Jane Moncrieff who had impressed the judges throughout with her enjoyment of dancing. But sadly both couples were voted out, leaving Ann and Graeme and 17-year-old newcomers to dancing Shane Jamieson and his teacher Michelle Stove to battle it out in the final.
First, though, came an interval and another display, this time of belly dancing from Rocio, who started in dramatic fashion with her back to the audience and an outfit apparently of white satin wings. These were twirled and swirled in head-spinning fashion before being discarded to reveal the glamorous outfit and bare midriff underneath.
Then the final round. Ann (in full length black glitter slashed to the knee and adorned with a red rose) and Graeme with co-ordinating red handkerchief gave their all in an emotionally-charged tango. Dancing on a floor flooded with red light, it was choreographed to tell the story of a spurned lover and pronounced “brilliant” by judge Diane Leyland. She said that the tango, originally from Argentina, was about a woman of the night slipping her hand into her dance partner’s pocket to extract his wallet.
But they could not stop Shane and Michelle, who had been firm favourites throughout the evening, both with the judges and the audience. Their winning cha cha, danced to the tune of Never on Sunday, clinched the title, to their amazement.
Michelle, in real life a farm hand at Gremista Farm and who only took up ballroom dancing three months ago, was stunning in a silver minidress and wowed the audience as she ended the dance sliding through Shane’s legs. And gap year student Shane, more at home on the rugby field and who wore a co-ordinating silver-grey shirt, did not put a foot wrong.
And the show would not have been the same without the slick dress changes, facilitated by Islesburgh Drama Group.
The evening produced many memorable moments. John Johnston drew applause and whistles when he revealed he and Lena had been practising in the back of her shop, Healthcraft, and it was lovely to see Lara wearing her mother’s pale yellow ballgown, hand sewn with sequinned butterflies.
The contestants who were eliminated early produced some stunning performances in the intervals of the dances they would have done, given a chance. The cha cha from Valerie and Jim, which ended with Valerie jumping bodily into Jim’s arms and being carried off, was dramatic, and so was Diane and Tavish’s, dressed as they were in animal print and gold lamÃ©.
Above all the commitment of two months hard work to learn the dances, complete with lifts and arabesques, was apparent, and so was the couples’ sheer enjoyment.
Mrs Jamieson said later that she was delighted the night had gone without a hitch. Everyone performing had looked and felt the part, she said, and the camaraderie had been fantastic. But it could not have happened without the band, the judges, the technical expertise of David Wagstaff’s team who organised viewing in the bowls hall, the first time it had been done, David from the bank who weighed the pound coins, Irene Smith from Health and Beauty who had done the make-up and Marie Sharp and Julie Keith of Sharp Image who had created the coiffures.
And above all, she said, thanks were due to Shetland Transport for sponsoring the event, meaning that all the pound coins that had been so painlessly extracted could go to CLAN.
And everyone agreed it had been a marvellous night. “Just as well-organised as the television show,” was the verdict of one member of the audience, and particularly enjoyable as it was very much a one-off.
The CLAN 1,2,3 appeal had raised £275,000 before the event, and the total is now nearly £300,000.
? For more pictures of the big night taken by our photographer Dave Donaldson, please phone 01595 693622.