Once a year, a cabal of burly rugby players from Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Football Club swap their scrum caps and gun shields for sequins and a flourish as they take part in a Strictly-style dance competition organised by Dancers Preston, one of the region’s top dance schools. The two sporting entities from either end of the spectrum of physical rough-and-tumble share a home, and the get-together is universally well-loved.
“It goes down very well: it’s a rowdy night with all the rugby players but it’s a great laugh,” says Peter Ronson, the owner of the school. A veteran dancer with almost half-a-century of experience, Peter has been with Dancers since the very beginning.
Originally established in 1979 by Nick and Carol Atack, Dancers celebrated their 40th birthday on Sunday, with four decades of cha cha-ing here and tango-ing there having seen the decorated school blossom from a relatively small but hugely passion-driven undertaking to become one of the North West’s premier locales for dancers the length and breadth of the country.
“We’ve been quite busy over the years!” said Peter, with the troupe having started life as Studio 26 on Avenham Street before moving to bigger premises and becoming Dancers. “We’ve won the British Championships for juniors and for adults and represented the country abroad in the European and World Championships. And we were on the original Come Dancing a fair few times!”
Now well-established at Preston Grasshoppers - the home of a decidedly more heavy bump-and-crash kind of endeavour - the 15 years since their move in 2004 have seen Dancers only enhance their reputation as one of the region’s friendliest and most expert dance schools.
Testament to hours and hours - years and years - of hard work, dedication, and passion, their current iteration is summed up nicely on their website: ‘If you are looking for experienced and qualified dance teachers who will help you make the most of your talent, you’re in the right place.’
“We do children classes on Saturdays, adult classes from Sunday to Thursday, and we have a general dance on Saturday nights; we even used to have single nights at one point,” said Peter, who took over as owner two years prior to Nick’s passing in 2014. “I’ve been here since the beginning, 40 years ago. Nobody knows how old I am, I can’t possibly tell! But, I can say I’ve been dancing 46 years from being a child,” he added.
Exponents of pretty much every kind of popular dance known to feet, hips, and hands, the school’s six dance tutors - as well as the effusive Peter himself - hold numerous classes in ballroom dance, sequence, rock ‘n roll, salsa, cha cha, line dancing, quickstep, Zumba, and a selection of South American Latino dances such as the Argentine tango and La Rueda.
Transforming their Lightfoot Green Lane home into a hive of activity, Dancers now regularly plays host to around 60 or 70 local dancers at every class, with the school not only offering the invaluable the chance to improve those slick moves, but an equally as important opportunity to socialise with others in a friendly setting and generally have a good time whilst getting fitter.
“For lots of people, it’s mainly social,” explained Peter, who as well as ‘doing a bit of everything’ at the school, also organises dance trips for the members. “We had a weekend in Scarborough in February this year and took 63 people across: we went on the Friday, had a dance in the Grand Hotel, had a workshop down on the front on the Saturday, then had a three-course dinner and dance on the Sunday,” he added. “It was great fun.”
And it really is the sheer fun of dancing which is the motivating spirit behind Dancers. As Peter himself says: “Our motto is ‘Fun, Friendship, and Dancing’.
“That’s what we’re really all about.”