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Ready, steady, tango!

More than 200 pupils looked suitably slick and sparkly at a recent ballroom dancing festival, run by the Active Schools Alford and Kemnay Network.

More than 200 pupils looked suitably slick and sparkly at a recent ballroom dancing festival, run by the Active Schools Alford and Kemnay Network.

It's like stepping back in time, watching the primary school couples dance round the floor as the band strikes up the tango. The Aberdeenshire pupils have spruced up smartly for today's competition - sparkly boleros, pink feather sleeves and sticky-out frocks with net skirts peeking out beneath hemlines.

The boys have also made an effort with their best shirts and slicked back hair for the Active Schools Alford and Kemnay Network Ballroom Dancing Festival.

Some of them protest they don't like this dancing stuff, but when the competitors take to the floor there's deafening shrieking. The NHS should bottle this - no one could feel low for long, watching these eight to 12- year-olds take to the floor.

Teachers say that some children were reluctant to hold hands when they first started practising. But early inhibitions are now behind them and damp palms are clasped as they move round the floor in deep concentration.

The man standing in for Bruce Forsyth is David Robinson, a dance teacher who travels to schools teaching children. David looks the part too in a silver waistcoat and matching tie, calling the dancers onto the floor at Thainstone Country House Hotel, in Inverurie.

"The next group onto the floor - put your hands together please for Kinellar School," says David, as the audience screams its approval. You can hardly hear yourself think. There are more than 200 children here from seven primary schools and the mood is Saturday Night Feverish.

"They have had six weeks of lessons on dancing from David and they have learnt the tango and the meringue, and they are here today to showcase what they've learnt," says Abigail Hay, Active Schools co-ordinator for the Alford network.

Every couple from each school dances, then three couples from each school are chosen for the quarter-final. Numbers are whittled down again in the semi-final and six couples dance the final in each dance.

Everyone will get a certificate for taking part and there are medals for the finalists and a trophy for the winners. The schools taking part are Tough, Alford, Craigievar, Kemnay, Kinellar, Cluny and Dunecht.

"I think with Strictly Come Dancing being on the television as well, it gave them something to look at, to see what they were meant to be doing. Some of the boys were a wee bit hesitant to begin with but they're all very enthusiastic now," says Barbara Rae, headteacher of Tough School.

Well, not quite all of them. Eight-year-old Gavin Low is too young for white lies. He says he does not like dancing, nor does he like watching Strictly Come Dancing. "I like The Simpsons," he says. Mrs Rae overhears and can't help smiling.

Nearby, 10-year-old Scott Dey, from Kemnay Primary, is having the time of his life. "This is cool. I love it," he says, smiling from ear to ear. He's waiting his turn to tango with partner Neev MacLachlan, 10. "It's just really good fun," says Neev.

This is the second year of this competition, which is to be staged among primary schools in the Huntly area at Easter. It's geared for P6, but with composite classes in some rural schools there are also children involved from P4-P7.

"The idea was to create a new physical activity opportunity and let them try something different," says Miss Hay.

"It's also a transition activity for taking children from different schools from across the network, so they get to meet each other in a fun environment before they move into the academy," she points out. "And there are cross-curricular links too, as David explains the history of the dances and the country that they've come from."

The winners in the tango were Amy Emslie and Joe Reid from P6 at Kemnay Primary and the winning tango couple was Ella McPherson and Connor McRae from P7 at Dunecht School.

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