Eighty two year old Bob Hill, a former DJ and dance champion, met twenty eight year old radio producer Katie Burningham by chance at their local market in East London. Bob was there to buy vinyl records for a new set of decks - his wife Iris had ordered them as a gift to replace the set that he had sold to take her on the QE2. Sadly, Iris died before they were delivered, but now, thirty years after he last played records, Bob had decided to dust off his old collection and start dancing again. Since then, Katie and Bob have met regularly and recently, they have embarked on a challenge together: to teach Katie how to waltz.
"Katie Burningham is a young maker of radio features whose work always sparkles with life. She’s also a self-confessed bad dancer. One day, by chance, in a London street market, she met Bob Hill, aged 86, a prize-winning ballroom dancer since he was 16. His late wife Iris had been his partner. He said he’d teach Katie how to dance. That was three years ago and this is the story of their unlikely dance partnership and friendship. It’s about teaching and learning, memory, chance. Affectionate, touching, affirmative, it’s a lovely programme."
- The Daily Telegraph, 6.12.10
"If ever we needed cockle-warming radio, it's been this chilly old week. And it's hard to imagine a more snug and toasty programme than Heel, Toe, Step Together [...] It's the best radio programme I've heard this year, nudging Kathy Burke on Desert Island Discs off the top spot. [...] It is exquisitely composed radio, and a textbook example of how to tell stories in imaginative ways within a feature format. Voice, music and ambient sound form rich layers that hug each other as the programme moves through its moods. The contrast of their two voices – Katie's is velvet soft; Bob's is whistley and a bit crackled – is powerful and moving, especially when Bob talks about Iris. He still sends her a birthday card each year, and reads out the message he's written to her: that was the third time I cried during the programme.
But it was funny, too, and ends on a celebratory note as they dance to Baby Love and count the steps out in unison. Before that, they reminisce about the times they danced when both younger, and the programme includes Katie's memories too. Her first dance was a slow one at the school disco: "We danced to Celine Dion, and I sang the words as we moved. Regretted that on the way home."
This is superb radio with a big heart and the confidence to tell its story lyrically and gently. Technically, it's terrific as a feature, but the main pleasure here is the charismatic, instantly engrossing way in which Burningham charts the merry dance of friendship and love." - The Guardian, 8.12.10
First broadcast on 6th December 2010 BBC Radio 4
Produced by Katie Burningham