What Blackpool Means To Me?

This was the question posed as the theme for the Saturday evening dance at the 20th running of the ISTD Grand Finals weekend and clearly to Julie Blackpool means donkeys and so she dressed accordingly! Congratulations for the time and effort involved in organising the outfit.

To most dancers however it means getting up at the crack of dawn to get dressed, prepare hair and make-up, eat breakfast and get to the ballroom at an hour when most people are only thinking of starting their weekend, whereupon they enter an alternate reality where time has no meaning. It is also the opportunity to dance in the world’s most magnificent and prestigious ballroom and pit yourself against the best dancers in the country and in some cases the world.

Such is the draw of the Wintergardens, Blackpool that dancers from other countries dream of being able to set foot on the hallowed floor just once in a lifetime and we perhaps sometimes forget how fortunate we are to have it right on our doorstep.

The ISTD event always attracts large numbers of quality dancers and each year the numbers and standard seem to increase. Participating in this event always presents a good opportunity to challenge oneself and this year was no exception where even a recall cannot be taken for granted.

Our weekend began at 8.30am on Saturday morning and we only had two juveniles with us this year so well done to April and Lewie who had worked hard to qualify to even be here. They both danced well and April achieved a recall in her ballroom event which is no easy task.

The juniors then took up the challenge and we had Jack, Paige and Grace S competing today. Grace was dancing for the first time as a junior, having competed last year as a juvenile so it was really like starting all over again for her. Nevertheless she danced well and will improve from her experience. Jack and Paige both made the last 24 of their ballroom events with Paige repeating this in her Latin event. They were also recalled in their couples event.

Twelve hours after we had begun the day we were finished, with just time to grab a quick dinner before returning to the ballroom for the evening dance. This is always a chance to have a relaxed evening and socialise with friends. There is usually a show and this year, being the 20th anniversary there were nine showdances, one of which was given by Liam who was kindly partnered by Lily, as Alex is still in Australia. They gave a lovely demonstration of the Classical Waltz which I am sure was greatly appreciated by the audience.

Day two began at 8.30am once again and we began with the sequence events which are always keenly fought since there are no grades, only age categories. We were represented in four of the five categories and Jack, Paige and Grace S all reached the semi-final of the Junior event. Almost everyone else received at least one recall in their respective event. We had our first winner of the weekend in the the under 35 years section, usually one of the toughest. Grace P took this honour with Josh in second place and Olivia and Craig also reaching the final of that event. In the Over 35 years section, Paul, Karen and Serena all made the final finishing second, third and fifth respectively. Our second winner soon followed in the over 50 years section, with one of the largest entries of the sequence section. Carla was placed first (completing a Blackpool double) with Christine taking the runner up slot. Andrew and Peter also made this final and were placed fourth and fifth.

With no time to bathe in the warm glow of success it was straight on with the ballroom and Latin individual events. We had twenty four adults all keen to see how they compared to their peers. Debbie who had qualified for the first time, received a recall in her Latin event and most of our dancers had recalls in both their ballroom and latin events. Charlotte B, Chris, Carol, Peter, Grace P, Craig, Serena, Paul and Dawn all made their ballroom semi finals and Charlotte B, Carol, Peter, Grace P and Serena also repeated this in their Latin events. Hazel made her ballroom final, finishing sixth and Rosalind, Allison and Sue made both of their respective ballroom and Latin finals. Some great performances throughout then and ones of which you can all be proud.

It was then onto the couples events and it was good to see some of the individuals pairing up to have a go. Well done to Hazel & Debbie, Rosalind & Allison, Charlotte S & Emily, Karly & Charlotte B and Olivia & Charlotte B who all had recalls with Olivia & Charlotte B reaching their semi final. Dawn & Andy and Carla & Neil made both of their finals and Chris & Serena finished second in their ballroom event. It is pleasing to report however that the day ended where it had begun with Josh & Grace and Craig & Karly winning their ballroom events, and Peter & Carol winning their Latin event. All couples also made their other final as well (in the Latin event Craig pairing up with Olivia). A great way to round off an enjoyable and successful weekend.

Boris and the bears (and Arabella) were of course out in force, joined by new recruit, Michael who found it a bit overwhelming on his first time out. They were all very excited by everyone’s performances and to see you all in action. Liam bear was found to be living up to his namesake, although to be fair it was towards the end of a very long day.

            The Thinker

Afterwards it was back to the hotel for food, drink and reflection. It had been a long and tiring weekend (for some more than others) but an enjoyable one nevertheless. A final thank you to Stuart & Andrea for organising the food one of the most important tasks of the weekend!

Of course our partnering team deserve a huge thank you for their commitment, both over the weekend and throughout the year. Many thanks go to Luke, Ruth, Liam, Grace P, Josh, Craig and Olivia. It’s a team effort and we simply couldn’t do so much without your support . We would also like to thank everyone who has partnered along the way at competitions and lessons, your contribution is invaluable. Last but by no means least a massive thank you to all our supporters and parents, you give everyone terrific support both on and off the floor.

Coming up we have the NATD exam session at the beginning of December followed by the Christmas Party (can it really be that time of year already?)