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Strictly Inverness 2024 diary: Advice from the experts

By Andrew Dixon

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Natalie Marshall and Stevie Strang. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Natalie Marshall and Stevie Strang. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Everyone involved in Strictly Inverness 2024 has a wee break now prior to gathering again next month.

It makes sense because people are so busy at this time of year with festive prep, get-togethers, family life and work.

A ripple through all of that is the conversation of "I've heard you're doing Strictly" or "Have you heard I'm doing Strictly?"

It seems most people either know about the event, knows someone who has done it before or knows someone who is doing it in May next year.

Given we've been media partner for the annual charity dance contest since it started – and next year is the 13th edition – I was aware of what a fabulous spectacle it always is and how important it is as a money spinner for event organisers and hosts Highland Hospice and Inverness Ice Centre along the way.

It also gave me the opportunity to reach out to some previous contestants and see what advice they have for Strictly Inverness 2024's crop of 16 couples, which includes the competition's first same-sex dance partnerships.

Natalie Marshall and Stevie Strang in action. Picture: James Mackenzie
Natalie Marshall and Stevie Strang in action. Picture: James Mackenzie

Natalie Marshall was crowned the winner of 2023's event, alongside dance partner Stevie Strang. They are both mentors for the group who will compete in 2024.

"I’m so happy to be involved on the other side of things this time," she said. "I feel so lucky to be part of Strictly Inverness. It was such an amazing experience for me, not just because we won but the amazing people we met along our journey and stepping out of my comfort zone.

"My advice would be simply to have fun, don’t get too stressed about getting things right the first time with the dancing – your tutors are amazing and just enjoy the journey.

"You should of seen me and Stevie when we started – lots of standing on toes and falling but with a little bit of practice and a lot of laughter we got there. It’s a journey so enjoy it. The same with the fundraising: enjoy it.

"Also during this period before you start dancing, get to know your partner and their family. It's very, very important to make a wee bond before you dance. It takes away for the awkwardness if that makes sense. And just treasure every minute."

Gemma Kellacher and Darrel Paterson.
Gemma Kellacher and Darrel Paterson.

Another former competitor was Darrel Paterson, who with dance partner Gemma Kellacher, finished as runners-up in the 2019 grand final after finishing top of the leaderboard in their semi-final.

"By far Strictly Inverness is the best experience I have had and you are all in for a treat," he said. "Embrace every moment, it is certainly a journey.

"My advice is trust your dance partner. Practice, practice and more practice – it will help build your connection and that in turn will shine through in the performance. Cherish all the memories and remember it’s for charity, so have fun. Give it your all and have a blast.

Gemma Kellacher and Darrel Paterson.
Gemma Kellacher and Darrel Paterson.

"Another top tip is film your dance rehearsals. It’s a great feeling seeing your progression through the rehearsal time.

"YouTube is good, with past Strictly Inverness shows on there and also watching BBC Strictly on YouTube for your specific dance style, when you get it, gives you some useful insight."

I'm grateful Natalie and Darrel took the time to be involved in this and hopefully it'll help other dancers in the 2024 contest, as well as anyone thinking of taking part in future.

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