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Champions of tomorrow

DANCE PARTNERS: Sophie and Tom

EAT YOUR heart out Billy Elliot there’s a new kid on the dance floor who is clearly going places, even though he’s only a day over 12 years-old.

Ballroom supremo Tom Purdy has been dancing since the age of three, and along with his partner Sophie Locke, looks set to top the UK juvenile dance charts, which will be finalised later this month.

The dynamic duo have danced their way to glory at scores of Latin and ballroom events across the country – enough to make any Strictly Come Dancing star shake in their shoes.
They are both at a crossroads in their lives because in the competitive world of championship dance, the age of 12 is the year young dancers leave the juvenile sections and start to compete in the junior world, according to British Dance Council rules. Tom turned 12 yesterday (February 13) and Sophie will be 12 next month.

rumba

This will make competitions much tougher with knowledge required for up to ten dances where everyone will have to know their rumba from samba. At the moment Tom and Sophie, who have been dancing together for 16 months, are ranked number two in Britain at the Open Juvenile Championship level.

But before anyone becomes misty-eyed at the thought of donning a tuxedo and tails, the youngsters’ families reveal a punishing schedule, both in terms of money and time, which make each step picture perfect.

“We always feel dancers like Tom and Sophie are often overlooked because in many ways they work just as hard as youngsters aiming for the Olympics,” explained Tom’s mum Karen, from Oldbury, who with her husband Ev, drives Tom around the country for competitions most weekends. They sum up the annual cost of dancing, including tuition fees and travel, at between £7,000 and £10,000 a year.

“It’s quite a big sacrifice. Homework is often done in the car and there’s no time for lie-ins at weekends. As parents too we sometimes see more of each other’s partners then we do our own,” added Karen.

Sophie’s mum Shanie, from Willenhall, agrees but is delighted that Sophie is following in the footsteps of her dance-mad dad Dean, a fire fighter who danced as a youngster.
But being a boy, does Tom get teased at school about his interest in dance?

“No, the school are really supportive and I think dancing makes both of them more confident and happier generally. It’s a valuable discipline for life,” said Karen.

The youngsters are taught Latin by Birmingham-based Richard Rose, of Richardz Dance & Fitness, then go on to Wolverhampton for ballroom tuition with Jackie Conway.

Rose, who has been a professional dance teacher for more than 30 years, said: “Tom is both very talented and focused and that makes all the difference – he’s prepared to work hard.
She added: “As a couple Tom and Sophie are slick and accurate with a good floor presence and always extremely popular with the audience.”

So, out of the almost 30 competitions they have danced in together, the unstoppable pair has come tops in more than half. Let’s hope the world of junior dance makes them champions too.

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