Friday, 24 October 2008

Dancing with the Stars

Well, one, specifically...

Several weeks ago I was interviewed for the Express about my experiences learning to dance (such as they are). As I'd talked about dancing in the kitchen with my husband (actually I do it without my husband too - Friday nights usually finds me boogying to Chris Evans' All Request Friday, it's a great stress buster I can tell you), they were going to send a photographer down to take a picture of me in the kitchen complete with pinny and marigolds.

I'm very glad they didn't.

Last week I got a phone call asking me if I'd like to come up to London for a photoshoot. Would I ever? When the most exciting thing that generally happens to me in the week is the Sainbsbury's shop, I didn't need much persuading. Particularly when I found out that I was going to get a makeover, have my hair styled and wear some fabulous dresses. No girl could say no to that...

And even if I was mad enough to turn such a fabulous opportunity down, when they told me I was going to be photographed with Anton du Beke, you could have heard me squeeing from here to Timbuctu. I didn't stop giggling for a week.

I was however very nervous. I've never done anything like this before, though I have done a fair few radio interviews, which I quite enjoy because NO ONE CAN SEE YOU.

I realise I should have taken my own mantra from the book and just pretended no one was looking but it was quite strange to go from the normal domestic routine to joining the commuter crowd (which I haven't done for years) and end up in a lofty studio close to London Bridge surrounded by people measuring me up like a kind of prize cow.

As I was the first to arrive (I was being photographed with a wonderful lady who also happens to be the receptionist at my publishers and a fabulous dancer who gave me lots of great info for the book), the lovely make up girl started doing my make up. I was suddenly terribly self conscious about my hair which needs a damn good cut, but somehow in my busy life I haven't found time for that recently. However she did a great job of making it look curly and natural, and I wish I knew what she'd done as I've decided this is a Look I must keep forever. Apart from anything else she made me look twenty again, which is no mean feat...

I also (shamefully at the great age of 43) had my eyebrows plucked and my lashes curled for the first time ever. But probably not the last now (I realise in my middle age I have inherited my father's bushy eyebrows. NOT a good look.)

While I was being made up Anton arrived. He was charm itself, introducing himself to us straight away and promptly chiming in with comments about what we were going to be wearing. He sat down next to me and once he'd found out I'd written a book was polite enough to appear to want to know what it was about. He also read out his own hilarious interpretation of the story (wasted as a dancer, that man I tell you), before pointing out that (ouch!) in the beautiful picture of the couple dancing on the front the man's arm is in the wrong position. I should have known that, but didn't even think about it when I saw the cover as it is soooo beautiful. So to all you dancing fans out there who've noticed, mea culpa. Should have spotted that one!

I then went to try dresses on while everyone else got made up, which was fantastic quite frankly. I tried on two lovely turquoise dresses (one strapless one made me feel like a million dollars but I didn't get to wear it in the end because it didn't have a swirly enough skirt), a purple dress I wasn't so keen on and a fantastic red dress from John Lewis which I absolutely HAVE to own...

By now Anton was dancing with my friend. I watched in envy as they made it look so easy, and in fact their photos together are going to be amazing as she was natural and funny, and gorgeous.

I on the other hand felt like a total dork. The photographer kept trying to get me to relax, but I think the first pictures he took just showed me looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He kept telling me not to look so scared, but I was absolutely terrified. Anton like the true pro he is made me laugh by taking the piss out of my inhibitions. Well frankly, I was waaaaaayyyy out of my comfort zone (telling me to put my hand on a man who isn't my husband's thigh in the middle of the morning was slightly disconcerting to say the least). At the risk of sounding like a total alcy I could have really really used a drink at that point.

More disconcerting for poor Anton probably was the number of times I trod on his toes, but he seemed to cope with it manfully. In the space of half an hour I had the experience of simultaneously being Katie (who is supremely unconfident at the start of the book) and Emily (who steps on toes all the time). Oh dear. That wasn't how my vision of the day went...

Luckily it did get better, and after discovering that to make the muscles in your face relax you have to blow your cheeks out, I ended up giggling my way through the rest of the shoot. But jeez it's hard. My chin always seemed to be in the wrong place, or I wasn't looking at the camera, or my shoulders were out. Who'd be a model, hey? Not me, that's for sure. (Not that anyone would be asking me ever, after yesterday's performance!)

I would have LOVED to have had the opportunity to get a proper dancing lesson from Anton, because he was quite brilliant at choreographing the photo so we got the right poses, and it was enormous fun. I suspect he wouldn't like me all that much as a pupil though, thanks to the stepping on toes thing, though he was kind enough to say at one point that I had shown a smidgeon of natural ability.

The session ended all too quickly, Anton keeping up his very witty repartee till the very last moment.

And then it was back home on the train, to sort out the kids' stuff for their tennis lessons, and then go and stand in a windy playground which played havoc with my wonderful hairstyle.

At one point Anton was teasing me that I probably spent my life in jeans and teeshirts - well er yes. Much as I love to dress up, that gorgeous red dress, and those lovely red shoes wouldn't be at all practical in the playground...

You can see the results of my day in the Express on Monday, but I hope to get some pictures up here at some point if allowed.

In the meantime, as Tess and Brucie would say, Keep Dancing!

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