November means shorter days, grey damp weather and bonfire night but for many dancers it brings the thrill of dancing in the Blackpool Wintergardens at the ISTD Grand Finals and what a sparkler it proved to be.
Our intrepid team of dancers, supporters and bears were out in force to measure themselves against experienced competitors from all over the country and for some, reaching a final would mean dancing in five or more rounds of up to four heats. Not surprisingly then, finalists are a rare commodity and anyone getting even a recall feels very fortunate.
The first activity of the weekend was the Annual Friday evening quiz organised by Chris which was just as keenly contested as the dancing would be over the coming days. The winners, by one point, were Karly and Debbie and the prize was an alpaca (a stuffed one) who was christened Arabella and given honorary membership of the Bear Mascot club by Boris.
Saturday arrived and it was an early start for our juvenile dancers whose competitions began at 8.30am. First in action was Charlie who danced a lovely Waltz despite never having danced here before and although he failed to secure a recall was fully focussed and seemed to enjoy the experience.
Kaitlyn, Luke, Chloe, Isobel, Ellie and Grace all soon followed Charlie into action and amongst a tough field all danced very well and secured at least one recall with some getting more than one.
We were represented in the juvenile couples by Luke and Chloe. These events include all under 12 year old competitors and so they did extremely well to make the semi final of both their ballroom and Latin events against much older competition.
The juniors began in the afternoon and we had Jack, Paige and Shanae in action. Again they all gave their best and Jack secured a recall with his tango whilst Paige became our first finalist with her Waltz finishing 5th, a tremendous achievement.
It was then off for a quick bite to eat before returning to the ballroom for the evening dance. The “theme” this year was musicals and many of our dancers elected to depict the “Sound of Music”. We had the Von Trapp children accompanied by Maria, a collection of Nuns and assorted lederhosen clad gentlemen.
Sunday was again an early start and as usual the day began with the Sequence events at 8.30am. Most of our dancers were in action and although we had no winners almost everyone had a recall with final places for Grace S, Karen, Paul, Serena, Carla, Christine, Andrew and Dawn.
The ballroom events swiftly followed and again most people achieved at least one recall with many getting two. Reaching the semi finals were Charlotte B, Carol, Peter, Libbie, Serena, Paul, Dennis and Karen. Going one better with a final place were Debbie (6th), Rosalind (3rd), Molly (3rd), Hazel (5th), Josh (5th), Carla (7th), Allison (8th) and Sue (2nd). Congratulations to you all.
It was then on to the Latin events and again the semi-finalists were Debbie, Carol and Serena and recalled to the finals were Molly (2nd), Sue (3rd) and Geraldine (7th). The Latin events also brought our first winner so many congratulations to Rosalind who was at this event for the first time.
Was it still the same day or had time stood still? It was 9pm before the couples events began but it was worth the wait. The floor was split in two with competitions taking place simultaneously which gives the events the look of an elegant demolition derby! Undaunted however our couples rose to the challenge and secured a collection of final places. In the ballroom: Craig & Libbie were 2nd with Olivia & Charlotte S 4th in the same event. Chris & Serena were 3rd, Josh & Grace 2nd, Paul & Karen 2nd and Neil & Carla 3rd. In the over 50 years silver/gold category we had a one, two with Andrew & Dawn placed 1st and Dennis & Sue 2nd.
Success continued in the Latin events with Craig & Charlotte B securing a win, Chris & Serena 2nd, Josh & Grace 6th, Paul & Karen 2nd, Carla & Neil 4th, and Andrew & Dawn 4th. A great way to end the weekend and well done to you all especially the impromptu partnerships.
After 26 hours in the ballroom over the two days we finally came to the end and it was time to retire to the bar for some refreshment and the chance to reflect on the weekends highlights.
Overall we had a good showing and I think everyone should be proud of their achievements once again. Of course we would not be able to do it without the help of our team of partners who give up their time not only to attend the event but also come along to lessons to practise beforehand. A huge thank you therefore to Luke, Alex, Liam and Ruth and also to those who partner alongside competing themselves; Josh, Grace P, Emily and Craig.
As always the support from family, friends and for each other was tremendous and we could not ask for better and finally a big thank you to Stuart & Andrea for sorting out the takeaway order at the end of Sunday evening, a vital operation since we were all starving by the end of the day.
Boris returned home a very tired little bear but very satisfied on a job well done.
The next big events are the NATD exams at the beginning of December followed by the Christmas Party. Don’t miss out.