Friday, 17 September 2021

Mayor’s rumba lesson

THE Mayor of Henley danced the rumba as part of the town’s third Living Advent Calendar.

THE Mayor of Henley danced the rumba as part of the town’s third Living Advent Calendar.

Stefan Gawrysiak was plucked from the audience to perform in front of more than 100 people at the town hall on Saturday.

Dance teacher Richard Miles, who hosted the night, talked him through the routine.

Mr Miles’ partner Gemma Hart, also an instructor, paired up with Cllr Gawrysiak and showed him the basic steps.

Once he had got into the rhythm, the pair practised changing hands and turning in different directions.

When the routine had finished Cllr Gawrysiak twirled Miss Hart and the pair took a bow to applause from the onlookers.

It was the first time that the Mayor had attempted the Latin American ballroom dance.

He said: “I enjoyed it, although I’m not a natural dancer. I was fumbling but it was great fun and I had a wonderful partner to guide me through.

“It was a superb evening, one of the best of this year’s Living Advent Calendar.”

Mr Miles said: “The Mayor did really well. Lots of people worry about learning to dance and say they’ve got two left feet but anybody can do it.”

The event was supposed to take place in Falaise Square but was moved inside because of bad weather.

Mr Miles, of Mayfield Drive Caversham, began with a demonstration set to All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey.

He and Miss Hart danced alongside three pairs of his students wearing red and black outfits and Santa hats.

After the Mayor’s dance, Miss Hart changed into a white ballgown for the final number.

During the routine, set to Lily Allen’s version of Somewhere Only We Know, Mr Miles lifted his partner and spun her several times.

Mr Miles said: “The Living Advent Calendar is a great idea and we were honoured to take part in it.”

Henley MP John Howell was among the visitors to the calendar performance on Thursday last week, which took place in the courtyard behind Delegate Office Services in Hart Street.

Visitors were greeted by 12-year-old Shetland pony Smartie, owned by Caroline and Jim Bowers, of Maidensgrove, who was dressed in a Santa hat.

Singer Molly Liddell, from Henley, and ukulele player Clinton Morgan, from Sonning Common, then performed from an upstairs window.

They sang Silent Night, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor?, Give A Little Whistle and Jingle Bells.

Then a snow machine was switched on and members of the Henley Rock Choir, who were standing among the crowd, sang Let It Snow.

Mr Howell presented calendar organiser Julie Perigo with a plaque to commemorate its Big Society Award from the Prime Minister. He said: “The Living Advent Calendar has proven its contribution to society. All of its events draw people in and bring the community together.”

The previous evening, members of the Henley Festival Youth Brass Band performed through a window at Simmons & Sons in Bell Street.

They played a selection of traditional carols followed by some festive songs while the audience listened from the courtyard. Conductor Maddie Cottam encouraged the crowd to sing and “jingle” along to Jingle Bells.

On Friday night, comedian Dave Griffiths appeared at Lovibonds brewery off the Greys Road car park.

He performed a potted version of his show C U In Court, which he performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the summer.

On Sunday, about 20 children from Henley dance school Steph’s Divas and Dudes performed a modern dance routine in Market Place and on Monday, a cappella singers Vox Pop sang at the Kenton Theatre in New Street.

The calendar finished on Tuesday night with a carol concert at St Mary’s Church in Hart Street, led by the church choir.

Proceeds from this year’s Living Advent Calendar are yet to be counted but it is thought to have made slightly more than the £4,000 raised last year.

The money will be split equally between Henley Youth Centre, the Regatta for the Disabled, Oceans Project and the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Ms Perigo, who founded the event in 2011, said: “I think it just gets better every year. People know what to expect now and the standard of performance was terrific.”

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “This year has been absolutely stunning. It has built on previous years, enjoyed bigger audiences and raised more money for charity. The shows have just been great.”

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