"My first lesson here… I actually ran away," says Huw Thomas, a middle aged, Director of Education for the Diocese of Sheffield. "I came into the building and saw that everyone was substantially younger than me, so I ran out, phoned my wife and said, 'I'm not going in'. She ordered me to go back in and give it a go - I've been here since."

Sheffield's Hype Dance Academy

A super-friendly, warm and welcoming place, where normal people like Huw come to learn to dance.

Culturally, it might be down to the continuing influence of TV talent shows, or maybe people are just getting bored of gyms, but learning to dance has never been so popular.

 "You've got to be reasonably fit," says Hype's Artistic Director Anna Olejnicki, "but you can take anything at your level and your pace. We do beginner classes here, so you're not going to be thrown in with somebody that's hugely more experienced than you."

 So what kind of dance training can people choose from? "We do street and hip-hop classes," says Anna, "and contemporary dance, ballet, tap, jazz, children's, teenage, adult classes…" The list is exhaustive.

"It's very measured," she continues, "from walking in saying 'I know nothing', then six months down the line you can really measure it and certain people really like that."

Huw agrees, "They do get you to a stage where you can look back on what you've done and see the difference."

A certain amount of confidence seems key. You need the confidence to pick up the phone and to attend your first class. But it seems that this effort is rewarded many times over.

 "We do a Halloween dance in Sheffield every year," says Huw, "and for the first two years I only did it provided I could wear one of those rubber werewolf masks - so nobody would know it was me. Last year I abandoned the mask because I was finally confident enough."

 Street dancing and breakdancing have both become enormously popular in recent years due in part to TV shows like Got To Dance and dance troupes such as Diversity. But how hard is it to get started? Alex Warren is a Graphic Designer and has only been dancing for ten months - and breakdancing for just three.

 "To start, you just learn the basic, simple moves," says Alex. "So you'll learn top rock, maybe a bit of six step, four step, maybe baby freeze and then variations of top rock."

 And his advice for those sitting on the fence? "Just do it. You've just got to try it, haven't you?"

 There are dance studios across the region and people are finding that they offer more than just a way to perfect your windmill. "I've met loads of amazing people," says Lawyer Martin Garner, "I met my girlfriend Suzi through it. So it's more than just dancing for me."

"I used to be a really, really enclosed person," says Martin Goodwin, a student and part-time gym instructor. "I had friends but I wouldn't go out of my way to talk to people. It sounds really cheesy but dancing and learning to dance changed my mind frame," he says. "Now I'm just completely extroverted, I've got a massive friendship group... You don't have to be a certain person to dance. If you're willing enough to do it, that's all you need."

 "I don't think I'm ever going to be the world's greatest street dancer," says Huw. "But I can see enough of a jump from when I started to look back and say, 'I'm glad I did that.'"

If you're in Sherffield and want to learn some new moves head to hypedance.org.uk.


The region's best dance studios


Sunshine Studios


It's situated in Manchester's super-cool Northern Quarter and offers everything from hip-hop and street classes, through to ballet and tap. The trim of waist might also like to give belly dancing a go.      



The Dance Studio Leeds


Primarily catering for adults and students this dance and fitness centre is located close to Leeds City Centre, where the classes range from street dance, via the intriguingly named belly dance fusion, through to zumba. There's also (cough) pole dancing for the more adventurous.





A great place in Edinburgh to get your jive on. As well as the usual regular courses, they run drop-in classes that you can attend by just giving 24 hours notice online or by phone. Feeling inspired? Drop them a line.



Bluebell Studios


This family run Liverpool studio is one for the kids. They offer courses in ballet, modern, tap, street dance, disco and freestyle, and take pupils from as young as two. They also throw a mean dance party for
all occasions.





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