BBC Radio York presenter Elly Fiorentini swaps her studio for the dance floor this weekend as she takes part in the Strictly Get Dancing final.
With her dancing partner she’ll be competing against 13 other couples to take home the glitter ball trophy – while raising oodles of cash for Martin House Children’s Hospice.
She told YorkMix about what she’s learned…
1. Learning the dances has been tough…
The dancers have sacrificed six Sunday afternoons to learn the waltz, tango and Argentine tango in a Wetherby dance studio.
No Sunday dinners either, says Elly, as you can’t dance after filling up on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
2. …but worth it
“I am so unbelievably fit. It’s made my core strength so strong,” said Elly.
“And it’s done fantastic things for my posture. My legs are so much stronger, I think I’ve lost quite a bit of weight as well. And it just makes me smile. I’m really tired, but I’m a happy tired.”
3. It all began with a broadcast
Last year BBC Radio York raised £240,000 for Martin House, and at the end of the appeal Elly and fellow presenter Adam Tomlinson broadcast live from the Wetherby hospice.
“One of the hospice staff said to us, ‘just take a look out there and that’s what the work of the hospice is all about’.
“When Adam and I looked across there was this family with their two-day old baby who was obviously very sick. And they were just like any other family at the birth of a new baby.
“They were taking pictures, they were smiling, they were hugging – there was one point where the mum was looking down at the baby with so much love – Adam turned away. It was hard for him because he was still on air. I wandered off and cried.”
And a few minutes later Elly had signed herself up for Strictly Get Dancing to raise money for the hospice.
4. It’s important to find a special partner
Elly’s life partner isn’t interested in dancing but supports her “110 per cent”. So she needed to find another person to dance with.
She teamed up with Roger Fielding. Sadly his son passed away at Martin House and he has another poorly son with the same rare genetic disorder.
“What they didn’t tell me is Roger’s about 6ft 3 – and I’m only 5ft 4! Therein started our journey with 13 other couples.”
5. Everyone has a story
Roger Fielding & Elly Fiorentini
Kerry McCabe & Luke Heinemann
Ian Naylor & Melissa Magson
Jakki & Martin James
John Nelson & Ruchi Gulati
Sue Gleave & Craig Hunt
Julie & Lee Walker
Frank & Nicola Wilson
Bhranti & Jay Naik
Emma & Paul Hill
Philippa & David Everingham
Ken McDougall & Jude Clark
Chris & Louise Sykes
Angie & Paul Hynard
Jakki and Martin James’s baby, Thomas, passed away at Martin House. “Radio York listeners remember Thomas,” said Elly.
“In his final days of life they brought in this little lamb. When Thomas fell asleep the lamb was laid down next to him, and that was how Thomas spent his last hours of life.”
Another contestant runs a Harrogate pub and has raised thousands of pounds for the hospice.
“Julie and Lee Walker have a very poorly little girl who is also a Martin House child,” said community fundraiser Sarah Tarpey. Jakki & Martin James’s baby grandson passed away at Martin House.
“Angie Hynard is one of the care team here at Martin House and Ken McDougall is the HR Manager.”
Elly says: “Everybody has really moving stories, or connections with Martin House. That’s what brought us together from all works of life.”
6. Some of the dancers have an advantage…
“There’s a guy who’s an electrician who’s dancing with his girlfriend. Everybody’s watching them because when they dance the Argentine tango we’re all going, ‘whoah! Sizzle, sizzle!’
“But there’s three or four couples who are not partners in real life. We’re the ones who have found it a bit harder with the Argentine tango – because you’re dancing with somebody, and it’s like, ‘I’ve got to turn on the passion here’.
“It’s a whole acting thing, so we’ve had a lot of laughs.”
7. There’s one dance that’s really tough
The contestants have to perform two dances together and one group dance.
“I don’t think any of us like the waltz. The waltz is very hard because of the rise and fall. I have never had such a workout on my ankles.
“But I adore the Argentine tango. Maybe that’s the Latin in me – maybe that’s the Italian in me that I love those passionate dances.”
8. You mustn’t be pale…
As any viewer of Strictly Come Dancing knows, it’s all about the look, darling.
“I’m in passionate red for the Argentine tango – getting my legs in and out of that is quite interesting,” Elly said.
“And then, in the opposite extreme I’m in a very angelic pale powder blue for the waltz.”
But it’s not just the outfits…
“I’ll be going for my spray tan. Absolutely. Some of the men are, ‘hmm, not sure,’ and we say ‘you mustn’t be pale!’
“There’s been a lot of interesting conversations about make-up, false eyelashes, fake tans and other bits and pieces.”
9. They’re in it to win it
“People have been going for private lessons on the QT. It’s really becoming incredibly competitive,” Elly confessed.
“There is a group of us who really want to win the glitter ball. And it is getting serious among that group…”
10. It’s tough on the nerves
“I’m going to be absolutely terrified,” Elly admits.
“The Engine Shed at Wetherby is set out where the audience is sitting practically on the dancefloor. There is the danger you’ll end up sitting on somebody’s lap!”
11. But they wouldn’t have missed it
“This is a major highlight. I never thought I would be so focused to do it and have the stamina to continue with it.
“What it’s taught me is you can do anything if you put your mind to it and have a positive mental attitude.”
More information about Martin House Children’s Hospice here