Victoria Bennett - The real life Strictly Come Dancing queen from Altrincham
PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 21:20 21 October 2015
Even if you don't have to sew every sequin onto your dress yourself, ballroom dancing is not all glamour and glitz, says an Altrincham dancer who with her partner is ranked in the top five of the UK ballroom world
Over nine million TV viewers love nothing more than to sit back on the sofa and watch celebrities being put through their paces in the phenomenon which is Strictly Come Dancing.
For Victoria Bennett and Christopher Millward, the allure of sequins and sparkle is never-ending.
Currently number five in the UK Amateur Ballroom Dancing rankings, the couple have been tripping the light fantastic together for five years. And they are also very much an item off the dance floor,
Victoria reveals: ‘We used to compete against each other with different people then my teacher suggested we get together. We kept it professional to start with because I always thought it a bad idea to be romantically involved as you spend so much time together with plenty of room for arguments. But it got to the point where we knew there was something else there.’
Victoria, who went to Altrincham Grammar School, studied music at Liverpool University and now teaches clarinet, flute and saxophone at primary schools in Cheshire. She still lives at home in Sale with her mum Joan and dad George
Her dancing career started when she was four at the local Cadman’s Dance School. Her first contest was when she was eight and took part in a competition at Wythenshawe Forum.
Christopher is still based in Birmingham, where he works as a quantity surveyor. But they still see each other most nights, splitting their time between the two locations.
There are also weekend trips to London for gruelling hours of practice with their dance teacher. All year round they travel across the UK to top dance venues in Bournemouth, Blackpool and the Albert Hall in London.
Their dedication also means more practice three nights a week which leaves little spare time for much more than the odd romantic dinner or a trip to see a show. But both say the sacrifice is worth it and love nothing more than the thrill of competing.
Their long-term plan is to become full-time professional dancers and set up their own dance school.
Says Victoria:’At the moment we are just trying to get as far as we can in the amateur rankings then we will take our professional exams which will mean we can compete in a bigger arena.’
Every single one of Victoria’s elaborate dresses costs £2,000 and she has seven or eight designed every year. Thanks to sponsorship from Dance Sports International, it is an affordable expense.
After gaining recognition as among the top UK dancers, the couple’s next challenge is the World Championships at Disneyland in Paris, where they will join hundreds of other couples competing for medals.
Victoria is delighted public appetite for ballroom dancing has soared since strictly.
‘Strictly has really brought ballroom dancing to the fore. Before the programme took off if I said I did ballroom dancing no one would know much about it. However, to be honest I rarely watch the programme as it’s not really about the actual dancing but more celebrity and showmanship.’
For Christopher, ballroom dancing is a family tradition. His parents Kevin and Christine Millward were British Champions and he has been taking lessons since he was a small boy. However, he did not tell anyone at school as it was regarded as uncool.
‘I kept it a secret, then when I was 15 I ended up doing a show and it was in the local paper. I was a bit embarrassed but everyone was quite impressed.
He adds: ‘Our partnership works because we share a real passion for dancing which is vital as it requires vast amounts of time and practice and completely takes over your life. But we would not want to do anything else.
‘The ballroom dancing community is very close-knit and we have made so many friends over the years. It is a very special world and it is great to be a part of it.’