LAST week, as part of half term, our family took a day trip to London, to see the live tour of Strictly Come Dancing. In front of 10,000 fans at the O2, Joe McFadden, Alexandra Burke, Debbie McGee and others recreated their favourite dances from the series. Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell and Bruno Tonioli were on hand to score, before the audience voted for their winner by text.

The post TV show tour is in its eleventh year and is clearly going from strength to strength.

It’s far from the only Strictly show around either. This Friday, the City Hall plays host to Dance to the Music – an evening of, yes, dancing led by Strictly professionals Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor.

In June, meanwhile, Strictly favourites Oti Mabuse and Ian Waite will also be in Salisbury to strut their stuff.

Dancing, in many respects, has never been more popular.

Back in the noughties when Strictly began, dance productions saw huge increases in audience growth: Sadler’s Wells Theatre saw audiences for contemporary dance tripling between 2005 and 2010.

At the end of that decade, the Arts Council reported a ‘phenomenal’ rise in audience numbers: a 103 per cent increase by the end of 2009.

Today, Strictly’s TV ratings have never been higher – where once it played second fiddle to The X Factor, now it is the dominant force in Saturday night entertainment.

The number of people dancing themselves, however, hasn’t followed suit.

Research for the Preventive Medicine Journal suggested that over the past decade, the number of women dancing regularly in the UK has actually fallen by 31 per cent, and men by 49 per cent.

Part of that can be explained by the decrease in the number of nightclubs (halved between 2005 and 2015) but there seems to be a Strictly equivalent to the ‘Olympics Effect’ after 2012: rather than inspiring participation, the opposite has occurred.

That seems a shame, because the benefits of dancing are clear.

A 2014 LSE survey suggested that, out of all recreational activities, dancing rewarded participants with the highest levels of happiness. Doctors, meanwhile, have long extolled its benefits for keeping the brain sharp: regular dancing is claimed to reduce the risk of dementia by 76 per cent, 30 per cent higher than doing crosswords, and 40 per cent higher than reading.

For those who want to learn, Salisbury is fortunate to have a thriving dance scene, with numerous organisations like the excellent Salisbury Dance Studios, where my daughters dance, and the Ceroc scene, centred around Wilton’s Michael Herbert Hall, which my wife swears by.

Keep Dancing, goes the Strictly catchphrase. But in modern Britain, Start Dancing might be more apposite.

  • Dance to the Music is at City Hall Salisbury on Friday, February 23.