The Homeless Fund: Greatest Dancer star Curtis Pritchard cha-chas to help the homeless

Harriet Brewis talks to the ex-Love Islander after his dance class at a shelter for London’s female rough-sleepers

Harriet Brewis
Thursday 30 January 2020 17:51 GMT
The Homeless Fund: Greatest Dancer star Curtis Pritchard cha-chas to help the homeless

Greatest Dancer star Curtis Pritchard has led a special dance class at the women’s shelter at the heart of our Homeless Appeal.

The 23-year-old, a professional dancer and choreographer who shot to reality TV stardom on Love Island in June, taught an eager group of participants at the Marylebone Project this week how to cha-cha-cha as he called on all Londoners to back our work to end homelessness in the capital.

The Homeless Fund, launched in collaboration with 23 frontline charities, aims to set up London’s first 24-hour drop-in women’s centre at the project, to ensure all vulnerable women have a safe space to turn to for ongoing or urgent support.

Money raised over the course of our two-year campaign will also go towards creating London’s first female-focused support network to give women the tailored support they need, as well as provide them with more life-affirming opportunities including regular art, music and dance classes.

As the first phase of our fundraising draws to a close on Monday, Curtis said: “I think the Homeless Fund is incredible. You don’t know when something’s going to come up and sometimes you need to be able to talk to somebody straight away, and the money raised is going to make sure that happens.

“I wanted to come here today because I enjoy teaching dance and I know it puts a smile on people’s faces. If there are people in need, or who are struggling in some way, I like to help them take their minds off their issues and just give them a bit of fun for an hour.”

Curtis warms up with some gentle ballet, led by Derby University student Katie Baxter-Brown (Nigel Howard)

The Marylebone Project, which is the largest women’s hostel in London, also offers a range of training opportunities and creative sessions, including a weekly dance class with university undergraduate Katie Baxter-Brown, 22.

Ms Baxter-Brown, a second-year student of dance and counselling, said she had noticed a marked change in her pupils since she began working at the centre five months ago.

“Some of the women were very shy at first, but over the weeks they’ve started to come out of their shells. They’ve warmed to me, and each other. It’s been so nice to see them build this amazing camaraderie and grow in confidence.”

Her lessons are grounded in a mix of ballet and contemporary styles, but Curtis – who specialises in ballroom and Latin dance – was keen to teach the women some “funky” new moves.

While some of the participants were initially nervous when faced with their celebrity instructor, they soon got stuck in, with one resident, 56-year-old Maggie Blaney, enjoying her own one-on-one moment in the spotlight with him.

Maggie Blaney had a moment with the heartthrob (Nigel Howard)

“It was a dream come true,” she said after their special duet. “I watched Curtis all the time on Love Island and I’m now watching him on The Greatest Dancer. He’s wonderful.”

Curtis said he was determined to find time to visit the project despite an increasingly hectic schedule – he is starrng in BBC One’s The Greatest Dancer series on Saturday.

“There’s always time to put a smile on somebody’s face. We should all take a moment to do things for other people.”

The Greatest Dancer live shows start this Saturday at 6.30pm on BBC One

Curtis Pritchard’s class at the Marylebone Project – In Pictures

Curtis leads a cha-cha class, teaching the women to spot-turn, ‘new york’ and swivel their hips (Nigel Howard) (NIGEL HOWARD ©)
Resident Maggie Blaney enjoys one-on-one time with Curtis (Nigel Howard) (NIGEL HOWARD ©)
Some of the women were nervous at first, but they soon got stuck in with the new Latin routine (Nigel Howard) (NIGEL HOWARD ©)
Curtis joins staff and residents from the Marylebone Project for their weekly ballet class with Katie Baxter-Brown (Nigel Howard) (NIGEL HOWARD ©)
The class has a freestyle dance-off with the former Love Islander (Nigel Howard) (NIGEL HOWARD ©)
‘I think no matter what there’s always time to put a smile on somebody’s face,’ Curtis said (Nigel Howard) (NIGEL HOWARD ©)

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