Carolyn reveals secrets of making Spitfire dance to classical music over Blickling Hall, near Aylsham

If you've got two left feet, you probably marvel at the stars of Strictly Come Dancing as they master all manner of elegant moves in time to music.

But one woman has taken the art of dancing to new heights - literally.

For Carolyn Grace sits in the cockpit of a second world war Spitfire and loops and swoops in perfect unison with an orchestra.

The remarkable display will be seen by thousands of people when it brings a breathtaking end to the first half of a classical concert at Blickling Hall, near Aylsham, on August 11.

Mrs Grace will choreograph the iconic plane to the Spitfire Prelude by William Walton, which will be played by Sinfonia Viva orchestra, conducted by Roderick Dunk.


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If it all comes off with perfect timing, the spectators will probably take it for granted. But Mrs Grace, who lives in Halstead, Essex, explained just how much went into planning and delivering the dare-devil display.

She said: 'It's very demanding and challenging to display the aircraft, and to be doing it in precise timing with the orchestra.'

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She explained that first of all she worked it out in her front room by listening to a CD of the music.

She said: 'I have a stopwatch when I listen to it. I work out the most suitable manoeuvres to match the music. When there's a crescendo, one might do a loop or a roll, or one might go away and come roaring back in and pull straight up.'

Mrs Grace added: 'I then listen to the orchestra's rehearsal on the day to get the tempo.

'By then I've got my critical times, and by listening to the rehearsal I can fine-tune them. I have those critical times written in very large letters on a knee pad in the cockpit.'

Mrs Grace also has a watch on each wrist and a stopwatch on her arm. And, in case there is not enough to think about, she is looking out for other aircraft that might have entered the airspace.

She said: 'I go through this display 50 times in my head. I will have done it physically at least five times before the display.'

On the ground, the conductor or stage manager sets their watch to the speaking clock on the day, as does Mrs Grace.

She said: 'It's on the conductor's head to put the baton down at exactly the right time. We have no form of communication between us, but the conductor at Blickling is extremely experienced.'

As you might expect, there is a fascinating story behind the Grace Spitfire.

Mrs Grace said: 'My husband Nick wanted to fly a Spitfire, but he knew no-one was ever going to let him. So he acquired one in 1979 and spent five years taking it apart and putting it back together.

'It's a two-seat Spitfire and it did 320 combat hours in the second world war and shot down the first enemy aircraft during the D-Day landings.

'It was a single-seater during the war, but it was converted as an advanced trainer with two seats by Supermarine in 1950 for the Irish Air Corps. That saved it from being scrapped.'

Mrs Grace began piloting the Grace Spitfire after her husband died in October 1988. She has been doing the choreographed displays since 1995.

The Last Night of the Blickling Proms concert - for which the EDP is the media sponsor - is the only concert at the National Trust property in 2012. A firework finale over the lake also features, after the rousing strains of Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.

? Early bird tickets (for bookings before January 31) are available for �29; group discounts of up to 20pc are also available. From February 1, tickets will be �32 (�35 on the night). For more information visit www.revival-productions.co.uk or call the box office on 01263 734711. Car and coach parking will be free.

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