Lynsey and I were at the Tower Ballroom in Edgbaston on Monday night, for a dance competition. We were just watching, rather than taking part! You may be wondering, what dance competition? If I could remember, I’d tell you. They must have said it 100 times, but it’s fallen out of my head. It was the Midlands Open Championship, or something…I’ll check with Lynsey 🙂 Whatever it was, there were three competitions: professional ballroom, amateur latin and amateur ballroom.
The show started at 2000, and we got there for 1930. I drove down Broad Street for the first time ever on the way, which wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Our bags were checked on entrance – for video cameras rather than bombs, I think – and we walked into the hall. I was impressed!
I was expecting the average club with a floor that could be cleared to create a dancing area, but it was actually quite swanky. We were the first of our dance group to arrive, so we sat at our floor-edge table and people-watched. Other people slowly arrived, and we exchanged pleasantries. Before long the competition started.
The ballroom competition consists of the waltz, quickstep, slow foxtrot, viennese waltz and tango. Latin is the rumba, jive, paso doble, cha-cha and samba. We haven’t yet started learning the paso doble or tango, but could watch the others with some understanding of what was going on. Or so we thought. It turns out that the emphasis in ballroom is in posture, rhythm and grace, and the steps weren’t any more advanced than we’ve been learning. This is quite cool, as you can imagine progressing from current standards to professional level without too much difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way saying it’s easy! It just looks easy. I’m sure it’s extremely challenging to move perfectly while maintaining excellent posture. When watching, however, you can think “I could do that.”
The latin, however: notsomuch. It’s so complicated! The steps are far faster and much more complex than anything we learn. It looks great, and I’d love to get as good as that! I don’t much like the tight lycra male-clothing (as for the women’s dresses, I shall simply say holy crap and leave it at that), but that’s a minor point.
Judges surrounded the floor and watched 20 couples perform each dance in turn, the dances lasting two minutes or so. Due to the number of couples, each dance was split into three separate groups. There were two rounds, a semi-final and the final. With three competitions, it took rather longer than we were expecting – the final awards ceremony was at 0100! It can’t be easy dancing at midnight, especially as it was possible for people to enter both the amateur ballroom and latin contests. While nobody did, if somebody got through to both finals they’d dance 40 times in one evening!
The compere (is that the right term?) urged the audience to shout out the numbers of our favoured couples. I liked this – it was an interesting mix of refined dancing and local contest informality. We adopted a couple from Solihull and cheered them on. I think they came 4th in the end, which was pretty respectable.
Before the finals there was a cabaret presentation by Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, both of whom appeared in the second series of Strictly Come Dancing. This was a complete surprise to Lynsey and me, but a pleasant one! Darren in fact won the series with Jill Halfpenny, while Lilia and Aled Jones came fourth(?). Apparently the two of them won the Latin competition at the Edgbaston ballroom three years ago. They’re married, as a matter of interest.
Unsurprisingly, they were excellent. I stood up to take pictures during some of their routines, and felt very out-of-place as there was very little movement in the room – everybody was entranced, I think! After dancing, Darren asked who we’d all vote for in the next series, to which Lynsey replied: “Anton!”
Regular readers will know that I’m not very confident socially, and I was nervous that without the issue of actually dancing I’d have trouble talking to the other people from the group. I didn’t do too badly, hopefully. I wasn’t sure of the etiquette when somebody picked me up a drink during their bar run – should I offer to pay, or what? I’m told if I spent any time in pubs I’d know these things 🙂
It was a fun evening, and I’m glad we went. It was certainly interesting to see the dances performed ‘properly’, even if the tango did remind me of a mouse trying to escape a cat 🙂