Saracens’ Love to Dance programme shortlisted

Saracens knew their dance programme for over-50s was changing lives when its Hertfordshire participants suggested they start paying for classes to ensure they continue– and its impact has been further recognised with a Premiership Rugby Community Award nomination.

Love to Dance currently runs 12 regular classes across the county and its four full-time instructors are in contact with more than 200 people every week.

On top of learning various dance styles including jive, salsa and rock & roll, the programme provides local people with a relaxed environment in which to get fit and make new friends.

While Love to Dance is on the shortlist for the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Impact Award, coming out on top will not be easy as Bristol’s Bright Sparks programme and Gloucester’s Community Heritage Project are also in the running.

Saracens have a pedigree for walking off with top prizes for dance projects as their Community Dance Programme won a Sportbusiness CSR Award in 2009.

And this year they are also up for the prestigious Aviva Club of the Year as well as a Land Rover Innovation Award for Get Onside.

The winners will be announced at an evening reception in the historic Churchill Room at the House of Commons on June 27 and community dance manager Clare Bellchambers is keeping her fingers crossed that the judges will be as impressed as the programme’s members.

“The first time we ran the programme, with funding from Hertfordshire County Council, we just did ten sessions for free and we gave out some questionnaires after asking if they wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to help continue the course,” said Bellchambers.

“The response was amazing. They said they didn’t like coming for free and that we had such a good class that not paying for it was wrong.

“So now the sessions cost four pounds for two hours. Because we’ve got funding until next May that money is going into a pot so that if it ends next year we can maintain the course for a bit.

“For us the programme isn’t just about their getting over-50s active, there’s a social aspect too.

“Some people say it is a reason for them to get out of the house, otherwise they’d be stuck in doors.

“That’s why we have a coffee and tea break halfway through the class to give them a chance to socialise.”

With Saracens moving their home ground from Vicarage Road to Copthall for next season, Bellchambers is hoping to open up Love to Dance to a new audience in Barnet.

And she believes that winning the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Impact Award would go a long way to securing future funds for expansion.

“It would be great to win the award as it will help make people more aware of the programme as we seek more funding,” she added.

“We want to branch out in to new areas and with the stadium in Barnet we want to get something set up there and it would be great to show them that it works really well having won this award.”

For the results of the All Parliamentary Premiership Rugby Community Awards see www.premiershiprugby.com

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