19 October 2016

Len Goodman visits Thursday Club

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On Thursday 6 October, we were delighted to welcome Strictly Come Dancing Head Judge Len Goodman to our Sevenoaks School Thursday Club, a weekly gathering where older members of the Sevenoaks community have the opportunity to socialise with Sevenoaks students and with each other.

A local of Sevenoaks, Len was a very popular guest – friendly and down to earth, it felt very much as if he was talking amongst friends. Interviewed by Sevenoaks student, James Scott, Len talked about his professional dance career as well as his 14 years on Strictly. Three Sixth Form dancers performed, showcasing different dance styles including Charleston, tap, ballet, and modern. Len has clearly relished his time as a dancer and a judge and was very generous in sharing his reflections on his time with Strictly and his advice to aspiring dancers.

Len’s long and successful career in dance happened by chance and was initially a means to impress girls. As a young man he was reluctant to join his friend at a dance class until he heard that there were only six men in the class and over 30 women! However, his natural talent was evident from the outset; he began dancing with the daughter of the dance school owner, who saw them together and decided to offer Len free classes – after that Len was hooked. His favourite dances are ‘the foxtrot and the waltz because [he] really loves the music’. He was very impressed with the dance performances from the Sixth Formers, telling them all, ‘you are not a seven, you are a ten from Len!’

Len reflected on his incredible run on Strictly, for which he is most well-known. His favourite ever contestant was Jill Halfpenny who was the first celebrity to get a perfect score – in the second ever series. He also shared some insights into his method of scoring: ‘if you move your left foot you get a 1’, ‘if you move your right foot you get a 2’ and ‘if you show up you get a 3!’ His now infamous score of seven came about as he had awarded this score to four contestants in a row in one episode, so to make it sound more interesting, he enunciated the fourth score as ‘Sev-en’ and it just stuck. Everyone now loves to hear Len’s ‘Sev-en’ and it is generally the bar that determines how good a dance has been performed.

Although this will be Len’s final season on Strictly he said he will still watch the show and believes that Anton Du Beke should replace him. Despite leaks in the press, Len firmly stated, ‘I have no say; none of the judges have.’ Len’s position as Head Judge means he has the deciding vote in the final dance-off each week, but he described this as ‘horrible – I don’t like doing that’. As well as enjoying a wonderful career in dance, Len is also a valued member of his community and says he enjoys ‘doing anything for the community.’ Despite still recovering from a nasty cold he told us that ‘I would rather cancel anything than cancel coming here’ as well as advising us to honour our commitments.

Isabella Mandich, a Sevenoaks School student, challenged Len to a game of ‘Food or Dance’, which everyone found very entertaining. Some of the favourite words were ‘polka’ (dance), ‘rosetta’ (food) and ‘polonaise’ (dance). Isabella described Len as ‘down to earth and kind.’ She also confessed that her grandmother wanted to marry him! The final part of Len’s visit was opened up to audience questions and I asked for his advice for young dancers. He responded: ‘Dancing, especially stage dancing is tough… [but] you need to keep going’ and persevere.

Lucinda White, another Sevenoaks student, said, ‘Len inspires me because he shows everyone that it doesn’t matter about your age, you can do whatever you want to do. He has really made me want to keep on dancing for as long as I can.’

I have been watching Strictly since I can remember and have even attended a live show, so I knew how friendly and fun Len would be. However, there was something very magical and genuine about him, especially when he spoke about dancing.

After Len’s interview I caught up with James Scott, who arranged Len’s visit and conducted the interview with him. James has been an active member of the Thursday Club for three years and enjoys ‘bringing a smile to all the visitors’. He explained that the school would like to make the club the highlight of the members’ week and make it as entertaining as possible.

James watches Strictly: ‘Of course my favourite judge is Len,’ he said. He invited Len to the school ‘because everyone loves him’ and contacted him through the dance academy he attends. James enjoyed interviewing Len because he was very engaging. Regarding advice James would give to aspiring interviewers, he said: ‘Listen to what they’re saying; be prepared to go off topic and do your research before so you have plenty to talk about. Also, make it fun!’ Well, it was certainly fun for all when Len visited.

Sevenoaks School would like to send a huge thank you to Len and James who made the event such a success. We wish Len a very happy retirement and hope very much he will come back and visit us again at ‘Sev-en’oaks where he will always receive the warmest of welcomes.

Hannah Saint

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