AS the Strictly Come Dancing contestants make their final preparations ahead of this weekend’s semi final, a Berwick couple are also hard at work, training for their biggest dance competition to date.
Anne and Eddie Cerexhe-Burness, of Windsor Crescent, will compete in the Championships of Tomorrow event at the Blackpool Winter Gardens next month, almost three years to the day after their first contest.
The couple began dance classes in 2007 as a social exercise, and never thought they would compete. But over the last three years they have amassed quite a collection of silverware.
Anne explained: “We started a beginners class in Belford five years ago and really enjoyed it, but it was just an hour a week, and because of the breaks for holidays we were doing limited dancing. We decided to branch out and began a class in Edinburgh run by former Scottish champions.
“We had no intention of competing,” Anne said. “We simply wanted to learn to dance - we never thought we’d be competing and winning trophies.”
But in January 2009 they were asked if they wanted to do a Champions of Tomorrow event at Blackpool, and both Anne and Eddie were pleasantly surprised to make the semi final. For the rest of 2009 and 2010, the couple competed in Scotland at Novice level, always making finals and winning the odd competition.
The ‘Eureka’ moment came nearly 400 miles away in June last year, when Anne and Eddie entered Stars of the Future in Brentwood, Essex. “We won!” Anne said. “We hadn’t been expecting to win - we went down with the aim of getting to the final, and it made us realise what we could do.”
Winning such a prestigious competition meant they could no longer dance as novices, and Anne and Eddie took the big step up to intermediate level amid a two-month intensive training program.
Since then they have had some fantastic results, most recently winning the Yorkshire Open Senior Intermediate at Sheffield, and the All England Championship at Senior Intermediate at Stockport. They were also thrilled to come third at the Scottish Nationals, where they were named first pre-champion ballroom couple for waltz, tango, foxtrot and quickstep. “We were really pleased with that because it’s a higher level than we usually dance at,” Anne said.
But with little time to celebrate, the couple have already turned their attention to their next competitions. “We’ve got the Championships of Tomorrow in January, so we’ll be practising all through the Christmas holidays for that,” Anne said.
As well as both working full time, Anne and Eddie attend classes in Edinburgh three times a week, covering around 2,000 miles and dancing around 50 hours each month. “It’s a big commitment but that’s what it takes, and we’ve met some lovely people along the way,” Anne said. She also has to travel as far as Stockport for dress fittings, and has recently taken delivery of a beautiful, crystal-encrusted hot pink number. “It’s a real thrill to get something like that,” she admitted. “The ironic thing is, before I took up dancing I was a total tom boy, I watched football, went walking and never wore a dress, but I got sucked into it!”
The couple assess their progress by studying the calibre of other contestants, and trying to knock their competitors off a ‘hit list’ of people they want to beat. “Essentially we dance for the judges, but when we’re watching other people we see what we’re aspiring to,” Eddie explained. “If we beat them we know we’re dancing at least as good as they are, so we know we’re improving.
“It looks sedate on Strictly but it’s a battle field, it’s a real eye opener,” he added. “They’ll flatten you if you’re in their way!”
Having enjoyed such a successful 2012, Anne and Eddie are keen to continue to push themselves in the new year. “The goal for next year is to enter the British International Open at Blackpool, where there will be people competing from around the world,” Eddie said. “We will get nowhere in it - we’ll be like a Conference team playing someone in the Premier League - but we have got nothing to lose and pushing ourselves is how we improve. We tend to throw ourselves into the deep end to see how we get on.”