DOZENS of people were stopped dead in their tracks in Winchester on Tuesday (April 8).

In the blink of an eye, an area in front of the Butter Cross was ‘flash-mobbed’ – much to the amusement of shoppers who stopped to take in the free and seemingly spontaneous dance show.

“It’s quite weird. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening at first. They’re quite good though – I’m not sure I could do that,” said one shopper, 19-year-old Maddy Brown from Chandler’s Ford.

At 1pm, 20 city council staff, who had been mingling amongst shoppers, pulled the stunt as part of their drive to put dance in the spotlight by delivering Winchester’s own version of a popular TV dance contest. Called Step up! Winchester, the competition challenges local people of all ages to take up dance and become healthier in the process.

Staff have been training in their lunch breaks over recent weeks with local street dance company Integr8. They performed a four-minute routine to Pharrell Williams’ Happy.

Eloise Appleby, the council’s Head of Cultural Services, was one of those making moves on the High Street.

She said: “None of us here have ever danced before. The idea was to show that anyone of any age or ability can dance.”

Belinda Ambrose, the city’s Troubled Families Officer, led the flash-mob.

She said: “I have really enjoyed practising the routines with my council colleagues. It has been great fun spending our lunch hours dancing and getting fit at the same time.”

Tickets will soon be on sale for a grand finale performance at the Guildhall Winchester on Sunday, May 11.

The dance schools taking part are: The Firefly Theatre School, Salsa Y Sol, Platform School of Dance, NuTango, Roynon Dance and Integr8. Local VIPs will be announced on Twitter over the coming weeks, with competitors expect to include the city council’s chief executive, Simon Eden, and Joy Carter, vice-chancellor at the University of Winchester.