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New dance classes in Haverhill have a romantic twist

Instructor Rita Banks with new husband Ian Hammond and the members of her dance class at Haverhill Leisure Centre ANL-151026-133546001
Instructor Rita Banks with new husband Ian Hammond and the members of her dance class at Haverhill Leisure Centre ANL-151026-133546001

With wedding bells in the air, a new weekly tea dance has been launched at Haverhill Leisure Centre with popular dance instructor Rita Banks.

Individuals and couples are invited to take part in the tea dance every Tuesday from 2pm to 4pm in the centre’s dance studio where they can dance the waltz, quick step, and foxtrot, among others.

Rita said: “The manager approached me to see if I would be interested in running a weekly tea dance at the centre and I was delighted.

“People can just turn up to dance, or I can help teach them, whatever they need really, all abilities are welcome.

“You don’t have to bring your partner, you could come on your own or with a friend, it doesn’t matter. Dancing is such good fun and a great form of exercise.”

For one pupil, Ian Hammond, 68, from Bury St Edmunds, the class was extra practice for a very special dance - their first dance as husband and wife after he married instructor Rita, 69, who lives in Haverhill, on Saturday (24) in Horringer.

After loosely knowing each other previously, Ian and Rita met again in a Bury St Edmunds supermarket car park in June last year and after a whirlwind six month romance Ian proposed to Rita in December in front of members of the Haverhill dance club at the Leiston Community Centre.

Ian said: “The initial catalyst for me learning to dance was of course, our wedding. But I love it now and I can really appreciate why Rita loves dancing too.

“Dancing has changed us both and given us a very fulfilling and busy life in retirement.”

Rita has been dancing since she was eight and attended the Morgan School of Dance in Shepherd’s Bush where she achieved the Midland Award statuette at distinction, the highest standard. However, she had to stop at age 12 because her uncle who was paying for lessons died.

It wasn’t until she was 63 that she took up dancing again after being encouraged by a friend and, it was as if she had never been away.

Rita started running her own club in Haverhill at the Leiston Community Centre in 2009.

She has to learn 43 dances a year as an instructor to keep up her training, and owns 19 pairs of dance shoes.

She said: “I have been on my own for 19 years since the loss of my son Howard and dancing was a way to fill my life.

“You get carried away by the music and you make friends and there are so many opportunities that really you could dance every day of the week if you wanted to.”

So, will Rita and Ian keep dancing on their honeymoon?

“We will be going on a ‘round the world tour’ in February next year, and yes, we are taking our dance shoes with us,” said Rita,

For more information on the tea dances and to book, telephone Haverhill Leisure Centre on 01440 702548, all abilities welcome.

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