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The Diary of a Medallist of the Year

The Diary of a #medallistoftheyear

Day 1

The hiss of hairspray… the cries of “keep still while I do your makeup!”… the murmurs of disappointment at not finding your stash of safety pins… the scraping of a metal brush against suede… Must be competition season! Well you join us at the end of the season actually. The last shout, the swan song of 2018/19, the big one…. Blackpool!

As I look out at the beautiful Tower Ballroom bustling with people, half-faces of makeup, dressing gowns and a busy dancefloor as people practice for a final time I reflect on the year just gone: multiple ‘local’ competitions; qualifying (and qualifying again); tiring practice sessions that leave you exhausted, sweaty and aching; bootcamp sessions that make you feel like you want to go home and curl up into a ball and cry quietly; and lessons going over every tiny detail and looking at footwork and timing under a microscope. These have all led to this final event at Blackpool – the NATD Medallist of the Year.

Back to the moment. You join me on day one of a two day event. It’s early (about 8.30 am) and everyone’s looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed and ready to crack on with the events of the day.

The children’s ballroom events are up first with adult’s Latin to follow later in the day and we have a well-oiled machine. Children and parents are on the balcony leaving room for others downstairs (more on that in a minute) and thanks to runners and generally well-organised individuals such as Gemma and Emma, children are down ready to dance – do their thing and off again (not before a mini de-brief of performance from Janine and Sarah!). Children are dancing well and things are running as well as the Roman army!

What could possibly spoil the flow? Oh, that’s right – the buggy abandoned in the gangway and the plethora of people whining in my general area about the lack of chairs. Look people – I know it’s annoying there’s not enough seats but do we need to get all militant and territorial about it? I mean geez there are people in the world without clean water to drink so how about you move those bags you’ve put on chairs to mark your territory with, sit down, start recording your precious little dancing angel and enjoy the dancing? No? Shame.

Anyway, back to business and the children dance beautifully and results go well and I make it through most of the morning with minimal chair-gate incidents and maximum enjoyment of watching great dancing.

Now for the next portion of the day (children’s couples events). I’m afraid you’ll have to just imagine this for yourself. Why? Two reasons: 1 - I was dancing myself later in the day and needed to apply tan and 2 - I was hungry, nay HANGRY. For those interested I had pizza at Pizza Express. Nom nom. Ever seen a man do a headstand in a bucket? Me either until I walked the streets of Blackpool on a Saturday afternoon. I really have gone north of Watford Gap…

Get back to the ballroom later in the afternoon; tanned and ready to go. I was partnering Ellie and she had jive. Sadly, someone was unwell which pushed her event back and led to a series of rounds with very few breaks in between rounds in order to catch up. Dear Lord… of all the dances to ‘catch up’ on. Jive. Really!? Not only is jive very much at the bottom of my ‘favourite dances list’ my god it’s also bloody energetic and Ellie being a young’un means the floor was filled with people who don’t want to die after one round.

My event up next… a nice calming rumba (third on my ‘most favourite dances’ list) to cool off after all those jives. This is it - my opportunity to show off any inkling of masculinity that might be buried deep within me. I don’t think admiring Rianna’s Arianna Grande style ponytail as we’re dancing gave off pure carnal lust but I enjoyed it. Quick question to fellow dancers: does anyone else have those moments mid-dance where your dance teacher’s voice pops into your head!? Well I do. This time it was when I glanced over to one of the judges during my rumba and noticed his eyes go straight to my feet. Shit, I think, it’s a footwork check! The next thing I hear is my dance teacher, Janine’s, voice: “Do a nice close!!!”. I did a nice close for fear of a shoe being thrown at me from the audience.

Adult couples events… the final leg of the day. Oh good, I have a jive event. Just what I wanted. No really. Luckily there was also a Paso Doble event which made the pain of jive go away. A note on the importance of enjoyable choreography – I won’t lie, the Paso routine wasn’t as embedded as it could have been and it was 50/50 whether I hit the final highlight without falling over. Having had less than half a dozen lessons on it and only managing to practice even less with my partner it helped that it was an awesome routine! Paso Doble is second on my ‘most favourite dances’ list (samba is top, FYI). Emma (my couples partner) and I managed to make the final in both our events (yay… so many rounds of jive to enjoy…) and we hit the final highlight in the Paso Doble, our final dance of the night. And we made it on time and with no injuries! And kudos to Carl and Amy for also making it through the routine without falling over!

And the results are in…

Oh, you want a breakdown...? Well I can’t remember all of them! I’m not Rain Man you know! I can, however, tell you that ponytail appreciation and teacher voices shouting in your head pay off as I won my Rumba event and all my dance family did incredibly well!

With Ellie and Emma and I making jive finals I can honestly say at the end of the evening my feet were screaming at me to remove those Cuban heels! A long day, ending at 1 am. Yes, you read correctly. 1 AM. And yes, we did start at 8.30 am……

Day 2

Well it’s safe to say following a long day 1 that the hop, skip and jump everyone had the day before has well and truly gone. Most of us (myself included) look like we’ve had a run in with a Dementor on the way in and had the life sucked out of us. But soldier on we must… it’s for the greater good or some such rubbish like that…

As I gaze out at the dancefloor with the aid of matchsticks to keep my eyes open, I reflect on exactly how inspiring dancing can be…

Michael goes out and crushes his rumba event – this 11-year-old boy is so polite, quiet and reserved off the dance floor. He then walks onto the dancefloor and transforms into a beast! His charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent shine through and he performs the heck out of it. Someone so young… so confident… he inspires me to perform more myself. #charisma

Sienna makes her first Blackpool final in jive. As I watch this 11-year-old cry with joy throughout her final dance it reminds me how important it is to give your all and how much it means to everyone of all ages and abilities. #passion

Lohan – a boy whose only been dancing for 3 months has the courage to not only qualify but go out onto a busy Blackpool dance floor and make a final. #bravery

Jo makes her foxtrot final. Jo missed last year’s Blackpool following an accident and subsequent broken leg. Last year she watched on, leaning on crutches, devastated she couldn’t compete and now, just one year on with her blood, sweat, tears and bloody hard work I now see her shine making her final. #perseverance

Oh, and watching all these made me cry. Yep cry. I was tired, it was a long day OK!?!? #emosh

The day carries on with more great results for the children and despite how tired everyone is the dance fam are still the loudest in the Tower with lots of encouragement, as well as encouragement from friends at other dance schools which really does help you when you’re pushing through those last few bars of music.

I think it’s safe to say that there was a definite Foxtrot Frenzy this weekend and #teamfoxtrot happened. Being partnered by Rianna myself, Emma and Jo all make our Foxtrot finals (and spoiler alert, we all win). Amy J, Vittoria and Michael make their foxtrot finals as well and absolutely crush the results. C’mon #teamfoxtrot… let’s get sickening!

The final results of the day… Needless to say, Team Ipswich smashed it. So many people going up for their final results and so many first places I was dizzy with results and blinded by the bling of the trophies!

What a great weekend. The dance fam were so supportive of each other. Everyone danced like superstars. The partners worked tirelessly and without them we wouldn’t dance at our best. And the teachers supporting and watching really gave you the little push needed. Can’t wait for next year already! Here’s to another successful season!

Oh, and Amy H – I was reminded in McDonalds on the Sunday night from young Dan that we agreed to go clubbing with him. Clubbing!? What were we thinking!? I blame being caught up in the moment. Maybe the fumes of hairspray got me disorientated. Oh well, better than doing jive.


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