A young couple from Nash Mills shimmied their way to victory in a night of showbiz glamour at the Strictly Learn Dancing grand finale on Saturday.
Guy and Natalie Gerrard wowed the judges with their dazzling performances and daring lifts at the charity dance extravaganza to raise funds for the Hospice of St Francis.
Natalie, 27, sourced her eye-catching sequin and feather-clad costume from a specialist dress-maker in Las Vegas, which she said helped her get into character.
Clutching their trophy, the couple said they were completely shocked and surprised by their win.
“We can’t quite believe it,” said primary schoolteacher Natalie. “The thought of dancing in front of 500 people was terrifying. We were physically shaking when we walked on stage for our tango, but we got some good comments from the judges and went out for the much harder samba feeling more relaxed.”
Electrician Guy, 30, added: “We only ever planned to get from A to B in this process. To get into the top three was incredible. To win is unbelievable.”
Guy and Natalie signed up for the Strictly challenge after Natalie saw a poster advertising the event at the local supermarket. “I’d always wanted to learn,” she said. “Both of us have had relatives cared for by hospices and we wanted to try and give something back.
“It’s been the most fantastic experience. Now we’ve started dancing, I don’t want to stop.”
Twenty novice dancing couples took part in the challenge, now in its fourth year, including the hospice’s longest serving member of staff, senior nursing sister Jenny Burrell and her partner Paul Bogalski.
They performed the passionate Argentine tango and the speedy, rhythmic samba after just six weeks of training with professional dance instructors Brian and Shirley Cusworth from Balia-Cusworth Dance School.
Guy and Natalie were crowned Strictly Learn Dancing champions after a Samba dance-off to music they’d never heard before with runners-up Stuart and Maxine Smith and Terry and Nicola Casserley, all from Hemel Hempstead.
The four judges, professional dance teacher and choreographer Jodie Read, singer-songwriter, actor and trained dancer Ronald Brian, Sean Butt, senior designer at Gorgeous Hair in Berkhamsted and Caroline Watson, MD of local advertising and design agency Zing, agreed that Guy and Natalie were the deserving winners.
Rodney said: “All our dancers tonight put on a real show. I applaud every one of them because I don’t think I could have learned to dance in six weeks.”
The 500-strong audience at Berkhamsted’s Centenary Hall was also entranced by stunning performances from Tring Park School and Fusion. The event looks set to raise more than £30,000 for the hospice.
Event organiser Fran Martin said: “I am so proud of all our couples. They worked really hard, showed total commitment and found the courage and confidence to dance on stage in front of 500 people here tonight. To me, they’re all winners.
“I want to thank all of them for taking part, Shirley and Brian for giving their time for free to teach our dancers their steps and making lessons fun and our generous supporters - Cavendish School for providing our training venue, Gorgeous Hair and Gorgeous Beauty for adding the glam, Tring Park School and Fusion for their incredible performances tonight, Rebecca Fennell Photography for capturing it all on camera and Matt and Andy, the music and lighting technicians at Centenary Hall.”
To find out more about fundraising for the hospice visit www.stfrancis.org.uk. There are still places available for cyclists in the London-Paris Bike Ride or the Prudential RideLondon-Surrrey100.
There’s also the Midnight Walk on June 28 and the new Mudpack Challenge on October 19.