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London's best ballroom nights
Simply the best
by Nicola Rayner
Finding the perfect dance partner can take a lifetime, which is why Jenni Kravitz took fate into her own hands and created a company that provides one - or more - for you.
"I waited a whole lifetime for someone to say they wanted to dance with me" sighs Jenni Kravitz, "but the men in my life were always part of the two-left-feet brigade.
"There is still a very silly attitude to dancing in this country despite the efforts of "Strictly": there are a lot of men who would love to do it, but they see it to be an embarrassing challenge."
Elegant and self-assured, an IT consultant by trade, Jenni does not come across as the type of woman to be a wallflower when I met her but she tells me that she struggled in dance classes. "Everyone promises plenty of men, so I went along first of all, but there weren't plenty of men and I was quite a bit fatter at the tie and I was standing there like a wallflower, and on top of not being able to dance, I had the pain of being ignored."
"I am a professinal woman," she expands, "I can afford nice thigs and like anyone I would expect to pay for someone better than me to help me learn something at the gym or with tennis lessons so why should it be different with dancing? A private lesson is a lovely thing, but it is very expensive and it's not very sociable, and at the end of the lesson you go off on a high and the teacher goes off and you're on your own. I wanted something that captured the atmosphere of "Strictly Come Dancing", that always offered equal numbers of men and women and never led to the wallflower experience."
Things reached a nadir for Jenni on a Valentine's Day in 2006 when she was at a dance with 11 women and just one man whom the female dancers had to share. "Every Valentine's Day I raise a glass to the man who owned that studio", Jenni grins, since, she explains, that miserable experience was just the push she needed to create her own company.
"I had started to think: if men aren't coming along - why not?" she says. "With a completely blank canvass I was able to do exactly what I wanted. I first thought I would start a class for myself and with my IT backgroud I was quickly able to work my way around the internet to find who would enjoy doing it. I started telling people about it and I opened up with 15 clients."
Like many of the best ideas, the idea behind Simply Dancing Partners was a straightforward one, as the name would imply. Jenni decided to source for her clients partners who could actually dance. Aside from this magic ingredient her dance classes follow a fairly typical format: a teacher - in our case the charming Rafal Lautenbach - guides the clients through a 90 minute class that covers one Ballroom and one Latin dance. Yet when it comes to practising the steps there is no tripping, no stumbling and, best of all, no waiting on the sidelines for a real man (or woman) with whom to practise.
"I never imagined that the people who are working would get on so well with the people coming to the classes" Jenni says to me in an aside, "but the clients are people who want to learn to dance and the partners are desperate to dance, desperate to use their dancing skills."
The level of experience of the partners ranges fro university students to professional dancers, but at the very least they must be strong leaders at intermediate standard or above in the Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Cha Cha, Jive, Rumba and Samba.
....... The classes are not cheap but I would part with lumps of my own hard-eared cash to experience such a feeling again.....