WHAT is it they say? Dance like there’s nobody watching?

Thankfully there was nobody watching the other night when I was attempting a step ball change-into-sideways slide, while clutching a top hat that was frankly more of a nuisance than a showbiz prop.

Nobody was watching because the only other people in the draughty church hall were, like me, all trying to get through (and remember) their steps in time to the music, without bumping into the stacked chairs. It was a wet Monday night, we were all women (mostly of a certain age) in the baggy T-shirts and jogging pants we’d normally be watching telly in. Not exactly ‘Liza with a Z’...

But, you know what? It was fun! We laughed, we kept moving and, step by step, we learned a little routine - to One from A Chorus Line, no less - and, if there is such a thing, we did some nifty ‘hat-ography’.

Obviously I felt ridiculous at first, but after we’d gone through the steps a few times, learning new ones along the way, I relaxed into it and found myself enjoying it. Yes, I was more Anneka Rice than Michelle Visage (which will mean nothing unless you watch Strictly Come Dancing), and Craig would’ve winced at my paddle hands (ditto) but the thing is, when nobody is watching, it doesn’t matter.

“Boom aaaaand step KICK!” cried our teacher as we shuffled across the floor. By the time the opening bars to “one singular sensation” came round for about the 40th time, we were (kind of) moving in sync and (almost) seamlessly linking up the moves. As I nailed my quickfire mambo turns, I started to wonder if I was ready for Shirley’s seven rhumba walks (another Strictly reference).

We ended with kicks and jazz hands, working the top hats, which I’m pretty sure won’t have looked half as polished as it felt - more sixth form revue than Broadway showstopper - but who cares? For just under an hour, in a church hall, on a school night, I felt like Oti Mabuse (Strictly again). It was fab-u-lous.

Now I’ve signed up for a course. Next week we’re hoofing to Chicago. Bring on the Fosse! I hope we have feather fans.

I have loved dance for as long as I can remember; I love to watch dancers and I’m blown away by their skill and discipline. I remember being taken to see a ballet by my mum when I was little, and being mesmerised by it. Sadly, I soon discovered, during a short-lived run of Saturday morning classes, that the dumpy five-year-old me had the grace and precision of a baby hippo. I packed ballet in, mainly because my parents howled with laughter whenever I did a clumsy petit jete (or “petty jetty” as I called it), landing with a thud on the living-room carpet, but how I wish I’d persevered with learning to dance.

Now I dance vicariously, watching fabulous companies at the theatre - Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Northern Ballet, Nederlands Dans, Alvin Ailey American Dance - and losing myself in musical showstoppers. I once went to a press night at Sadler’s Wells, and I wanted to live there.

And, of course, there’s Strictly, which has revolutionised the Latin and ballroom world that used to be so naff in the old Come Dancing days. Strictly has given us the confidence to try dancing for ourselves. Community centres and village halls are alive with salsa beats and big band American Smooths. Mild-mannered middle-aged couples are jiving around their kitchens and moving the sofa back for a quickstep. It doesn’t matter if we’re rubbish, and we don’t have the racehorse legs of the pros.

Dancing is good for the soul. Just not the knees.

* FRIDAY week saw the premiere of a powerful play based on women’s experiences of the Ripper era. There Are No Beginnings, at Leeds Playhouse until November 2, is based on interviews with women about life in West Yorkshire when the Ripper murders dominated headlines in the late 1970s. Highlighting the female resilience, solidarity and activism that arose at that time, the play looks at the 'rules' women were expected to adhere to, when out at night.

I was a child then but I remember those headlines and, living in Bradford, was very aware of the fear of that time. I felt unsettled whenever my mum went out in the evening. I couldn't sleep until I'd heard her car pulling up and knew she was home safe. Women reclaimed the night, but it didn't come easy.

* EVERY dog has his day, but Scooby-Doo has been around for half a century.

Yep, Scooby’s 50 (goodness knows what that is in dog years), which is slightly disturbing to those of us who watched him first time around. Who didn’t love Scooby and the Mystery Machine gang? There was hunky Fred (my first crush), ditzy Daphne, brainy Velma and Shaggy, the stoner with the goatee. We’ll draw a veil over Scrappy-Doo.

It was spooky, silly, and a benchmark of popular culture. Happy Birthday Scooby, thanks for the memories.