Doo-Wop Dance Club: in-step with street-dance in Preston

The Doo-Wop dancers
The Doo-Wop dancers
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It all started in a meeting with a careers adviser.

Tina Penswick, chief instructor and founder of the new Preston-based dance club Doo-Wop Dance Club, was 15 and determined to be a professional dancer. It was her passion. Scanning a list of occupations, the adviser looked up and said: "How about being a legal secretary?"

Tina with her daughter Lexie (10).

Tina with her daughter Lexie (10).

One of the highest-qualified freestyle dance teachers in the country, Tina's dance career saw her represent England, come second in the UK Closed Professional Championships in 2007, and work on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner as the head dance instructor. She ran her own dance academy for 17 years and earned a record three nominations for the prestigious Carl Alan 'Outstanding Services to Dance Award', twice ranking in the top three teachers in the world.

Still, who knows what she would've accomplished as a legal secretary?

"Dance saved my life," said Haslingden-born Tina, 37. "I came from humble beginnings - my mum was only 16 when she had me and she took me to dancing lessons when I was three. I still remember them, just wanting to do really well. I always has a passion for it, but I never really thought [being a professional dancer] was a possibility for someone like me until I grew in confidence and started competing."

Auditioning and earning a place in Oldham College's Visual and Performing Arts department, Tina made the six-bus, four-hour round trip to Greater Manchester as a teenager in pursuit of her dream. Training hard and perfecting more types of dance than most of us can point our toes at, Tina's talent soon shone through. "It was well worth the graft," she said.

A Doo-Wop class in full-flow.

A Doo-Wop class in full-flow.

And now she's keen to share that passion through her latest venture: Doo-Wop. Having gone back to dancing just a week after giving birth to her now-10-year-old daughter Lexie, Tina took three years out when she gave birth to her second child, lecturing at the World Salsa Congress in the meantime, but is back and raring to go with Doo-Wop.

"I've chosen Preston and Pentwortham because I think there's not enough out there which gives children something to aspire to," said Tina, with Doo-Wop classes taking place at The Mandala in Preston and Penwortham Community Centre. "I'm really looking forward to it and I’m so excited to be teaching in this area for the first time."

Tina's career as a teacher started as a 17-year-old. "I couldn't afford the dresses and the expense of being a professional competitor, so I started a dance workshop to pay for me to continue my career," she said. "And as soon as I started teaching, I loved it. Watching the children develop and grow... As I gained success as a dancer, I got better as a teacher."

Doo-Wop's focus is street-dance. "I decided to go with street-dance because I love teaching it and it attracts a lot of young people," said Tina, who has lived in Preston for the past 12 years. "Commercial street-dance originated in the streets, but it also has a trained element to it. It's authentic in style - I learned it in the late 1990s - but it'll also have a jazz influence.

Also offering Zumba classes and Sassy Heels - an energetic style of dance performed in heels, Doo-Wop is out to capture imaginations. The group has its own special uniform: motorcycle-style jackets on which dancers can sew patches they earn as they develop. It's the kind of look which very much lends itself to street-dance.

"Street-dance is fast; it came about back in times when street dance battles replaced actual fighting, so it's a positive place to put energy," said Tina. "And I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't had dance as an outlet."

For more info on Doo-Wop’s schedule, head to www.doowopdance.co.uk/