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The Dance Review

Jack Reavely reports on the British National Championships 2023.

Blackpool Mini Serial. Through my eyes and ears. Follow me around.




The practise time is upon us prior to start of the competitive events and it's Blackpool 2023. The joint is jumping with sheer undiluted enthusiasm and couples prepare and hope for a result beyond their wildest dreams. Can reality surpass their ambitions? Time will tell... some will leave with sorrow tingling their scalps... others will be exhilarated beyond belief... yes siree this is Blackpool by The Sea 2023.

One young Lady of Latin dances, utterly unconcerned because she knows that she is in charge of her procedural activity, within latin dance, and she simply shines from the floor, because of the way in which she combines so many of the correct principles... Her name is Ruby Savage and she sure looks ready as does also her partner and her coach is overseeing the practise and deserves commendation indeed for her expertise as a coach of eminence. (Lauren Hemera)

A mental picturisation of the famed Len Goodman illuminates itself in my recollective memory, as I sit on a seat where Len and I were next to each other in the days when the great battles were between Alan and Hazel Fletcher and Peter Maxwell - Lynn Harman and both couples were simply staggeringly great exponents. Len and I were both gaspingly aware we were destined to see the battle of those greats of latin... Such wonderful memories and it seems as if it was only yesterday.


NORTH OF ENGLAND AMATEUR BALLROOM CHAMPIONSHIP

My after the event views of this event is that there are a few excellent dance exponents, but also they are in combination, with some couples who do not protect the principles of motion, and emotion necessary for them to reach positions they crave. The tango and quickstep particularly have lost their signatures and have been replaced by flying round the room use of variation structure. In foxtrot too, insufficient control of musicality shows in some abundance. no.2 are in a small space, in the midst of other pairs... so what? They danced a lovely curvature on a reverse wave in a corner, and look beautifully experienced. 15 have a lovely use of silhouette although they overplay their variation structure at times, and the hovering of a second quick foot placement eludes them at the moment, but they are so nicely sophisticated. Tango characterisation is a somewhat lost art generally although no.2 have grasped the nettle of technique and added characterisation aspects as well. No 19 also show some added nuances which are subtle and are impactive, as also are no.15. In quickstep no.2 show ankles which are so nice and fluid, and used so well in this dance. 20 show a good dance, without over exertion and it stayed well controlled, which is an unusual and most desirable asset.


SENIOR OVER 35 FIRST ROUND.

41 Such an elegant lady, who epitomises senior dancing so well, and they have a lovely silhouette production. 47 Without doubt their determination and general attitude, is of superb competitors on the floor, to attempt to devastate the opposition through powerful impact and utter commitment. Could afford to reduce some over determination, transmitted in the waltz and foxtrot so as to ensure they characterise the demands of those dances in a more aesthetic way. They seem sure tonight to have good result. They showed superior body swing in foxtrot which is a big asset. Once again in a general view point from the event, quickstep shows so much unsuitable structure, in fact this appears to be the case in a majority of the couples.


NORTH OF ENGLAND 2nd ROUND

In waltz no 2 were showing excellent stance control and have that lovely look of youth coupled to expertise. They should check over beat threes in waltz, to ensure that the foot closures for example, create musicality as the moving foot caresses the floor. This couple show a good tango with subtle use of impactive nuances and their main attractiveness comes from performance value. They need time to evaluate and produce a little more complacency within their foot and leg actions, but their youthful eagerness is of great value to them. no.3 show a lovely bright quickstep, which suited them very much, and they retained stylish elegance when doing this. In the semi-final round no.9 could slow foot placement speed, so as to convey the essence of this dance of style and elegance. 15 are looking beautifully experienced. In this semi, no1 danced a lovely natural fleckerel by the use of extra acceleration on beat one of the musical bar. The girl of no. 16 seemed somewhat overpoised in the viennese waltz and 15 got out of awareness of the musicality and were suspicious rhythmically. No. 2 carried the girl well out to his right side which allowed picturisation to be clear. No. 22 produced a stance which was always attractive, and have evidently been working hard to produce this and to retain it throughout the event. No.13 showed control of all that they danced and by the use of an understanding of fundamentals, were able to convince the judges of their merits.


AMATEUR BALLROOM CHAMPIONSHIP

This is the second round of competition which showed so many facets pleasing to the eyes and to the ears and also some which did not please. However it was absolutely clear to my eyes and my ears, that, within this first round appearance being exempt from the preliminary 1st round that couple no. 23 had given, over the dances, one of the finest dance performance which this ballroom had seen over the many years of its existence. Their control of musicality, stance, leg and foot usage and general demeanour was simply terrific and the world is their oyster, as they will collect championship titles, from all over the world, and if they continue to show dancing like they did tonight, professionals of the future will dread their entry to professional events, as their expertise will make them much more than eminent. There is an aura of invincibility which surrounds them with charismatic appeal, which is like magnetism tonight. Ashley Frohlick and the orchestra allow and nourish the dancers to perform at their best, and we hear Chopin and Beethoven within their repertoire, and it is most certainly beneficial that they don't use singers to accompany the purity of their so skilful musical choices.

45 so very promising and they are stylish and also musical and using good mechanics too. No.23 show musicality, charisma and structural enhancement and they use top of toe with beautiful extra flexibility on foxtrot weave actions. They blend functionality to outstanding ability in the use of mechanics, stylistic excellence and I can only say “move over Glenn and Caroly”. PS I did spot Caroly using ball of foot on second step of a promenade and a foot close toe to toe and heel to heel, gosh thank goodness for a wee ripple... so easy to fix and never be repeated.

I had better slow down or this will become an extended serial, perhaps to be considered corny, flaky and indigestible eeh? My heart has been rejuvenated... a Dance Volcano is coming into focus all over the world and eventually the lava will glow as if the couples concerned were made of fiery lava, showing smouldering passion and dance delight to all who are able to see the couples dance.

No. 53 show clarity of fundamentals and are very talented... could in fact be challengers to win in time to come. Their viennese waltz needs a clean up and contemplative thoughts will produce betterment in this dance. The amateur championship produced some excellent dance prowess and many couples could easily be in contention as time passes, if they concentrate on acquiring the principles, laid down by our magnificent Pioneers. Articulation of the use of feet and the use of flexibility in ankles coupled to mechanics, will amplify your dance performances, and how can that be a bad thing eeh?

As I watched tango throughout this event, in a general sense I find many couples are merely masquerading, as they present a dance which is no longer, in many cases, conforming to a proper fundamental action, and they fly round as if they are dancing quickstep. ... The tango contradicts usual mechanics in the fundamental mode which is so beautifully tantalising. The dance, at high level, produces theatrical additives, which feed the couples and the audience as well.


JUVENILE BALLROOM CHAMPIONSHIP

Gosh it is simply wondrous to see these young couples, who are so full of glee as they dance.

The girls of course are, in many cases, challenging those young men to ensure they do not make it difficult for them to obtain heel leads, brush steps etc as some of those naughty young men can, at times, overpower the girls, but those young ladies know the score and assist their partners as far as is humanly possible. No.233 hit the eye and pleases them, through the simply lovely silhouette this young man not only produces, but retains all the time, and this is a powerful asset indeed and is backed up by good technical qualities, which makes them much more than formidable. The young girl has expressive use of posture and poise too. At times she just has her head placement a little too far back as a result of her terrific enthusiasm for dance. 221 show also a great silhouette and this young girl is finding out and producing the ability to understand how to place and control her foot which goes back so as to control lowering, especially in foxtrot... a so wise asset of desirability. 224 are brimming with enthusiasm and are unafraid to show it, and this young lady uses facial expressions, which convey her sheer delight as she dances. 226 amaze me by producing body flight way beyond their years, and it was most interesting to see them. The young man is able to expand body lines, although at times he does over-dance and reduce the impact of his great assets of such desirability, and this young girl accepts and expands the themes, as the dances progress. They filled my eyes and ears with pleasure. 214 beautifully experienced and looking as if they will challenge all other couples. A few footwork faults from this young man were apparent, mainly by missing rise retention, a common fault indeed. Their challenge would have been of great impact had they not been seen but perhaps by eradicating these easy to fix aspects, this terrific young pair will be challengers. Some steps taken in tango were a little too long. They show great experience, positiveness and much expertise too. In this tango no.227 the girl showed some incorrect footwork and she did close her feet the wrong way round when I watched in the tango. They have lovely personalities... 224 show a tiger in the tank in this tango, and were uncompromisingly good. 233 such a stability in their top line as to mesmerise. They have acquired fundamental expertise and their future is bright indeed. 214 are challenging and as time passes their challenge in juvenile events will escalate and could bring them rich rewards. 221 lovely stance control but using elbows to sway instead of from hips to ribs. But elegance is the name of the game in their lovely dancefloor look. In Quickstep there is a natural exuberance showing in all the couples, which is as clear as a cloud free sky in mid summer. 229 the ingredients are being mixed wisely and they merely need time to further develop. All of those juveniles incite cheers and also tears of nostalgic innuendo...it is simply splendiferous. The wee boys and girls are simply overflowing with a love of dance, ballroom style and the figures danced are beautiful to see and are protecting the future of each couple, because of the wiseness of selectivity of basic structures, clamped into each dance to ensure the future is protected.


YOUTH UNDER 21 YEARS BALLROOM CHAMPIONSHIP

The tomorrow guys and dolls take to the floor and there is an air of such fervour all around the Empress Ballroom. These young men and ladies are simply overflowing with the sheer excitement produced by the environmental perfection, and as they scan the names of the judges, they realise that they are being assessed by those whose own careers with Golden Stars as exponents and coaches of real eminence, so their markings are cherished by those who dance at Blackpool. Compere David Sycamore, who is also Chairman of the Judging panel is concise and to the point and uses interspersions of contemplation as he slowly but surely exposes some of the judges as being ex champions of the very event they are judging during the festival. David with Denise were simply awesomely great in both ballroom and latin, and won 10 dance events all over the world, with simply terrific dance performances. His eyes were sparkling as he used the microphone to announce.

The waltz, being the first dance, is always vital, because the couples concerned have to ensure they produce their very best efforts and seeing a really beautiful waltz can make you, as a spectator, breathless, as its nostalgic overtones reach your eyes and ears and, when coupled to the visuality of all the pairs dancing to its rhythm, it transcends other aspects within your lifetime. The use of beautiful approach to the musicality within a waltz, transcends mere performance and embellishes the dance as if Houdini had magically escalated it.

Will tango, in this event for youths, shock some couples who can create an atmospheric aura around them, in this great dance as shown in the past by for example the great Len Scrivener with his wife Nellie? This couple induced in tango, substance which transfixed the eyes of all lucky enough to see them compete... the intensity of their chosen variations was simply awesome.

In Waltz no.84 present their lovely talent, so as to warn those other couples on the floor to beware, because they are protecting the functions of such desirability and their future looks clear and so promising. 73 are also so very promising and they are tall, elegant and understanding procedural activity. 73 shows marvellous articulation of his feet and this is a very wisely acquired skill factor, which enhances all that you do. 87 body flight is excellent in foxtrot, and he understands how to use his foot articulation on foxtrot weaves as well as moving correctly and also efficiently.


JUVENILE ROUND 2

Bet you didn't think there would be more on this event, but it was so very magnificent to see, that it deserves a few more comments. For example faults seen were the footwork on weaves in foxtrot, heel leads missing in tango, a forward heel lead in waltz was from some, slid all toe and the flick up to produce the heel was missing...but these are always common in juvenile events, until expertise is required through lessons. no.226 show excellent body flight in foxtrot for a juvenile, and have good style too. Once tamed a trifle, they could be strong challengers. They still need to realise the difference between movement and progression in dance but terrific talent here. They do show some footwork errors on foxtrot weaves and over progress in tango, but just need time, to control sways etc and they are so very promising. 219 Very correct but the young man crashed heal leads into the floor at the end of chases etc., which should have been toe heel, then heel. This is a common fault and it's caused by not increasing the rise throughout the action. They must correct these to progress. 227 are full of elegant procedures and nicely danced too.


YOUTH BALLROOM SEMI FINAL

73 lovely use upper body sophistication, coupled also to a fine understanding of base mechanics. 78 are suavely soft and easy and therefore so elegantly presented. In Viennese Waltz 84 showed lovely control of sways on natural turns, which is a major effectiveness in the dance, which requires the eradication of any over rise and fall and an understanding that the sways are different from normally seen another dances. 87 are turning on a performance over the dances of such fine stability and understanding of the facets which made them to stand out as did also other pairings. This event shows tomorrow to today and they have been very wisely trained so that errors were eradicated before the event to ensure their success.

84 showed an immaculate sense of dress both man and lady with sophistication and that was coupled to elegance reminiscent of some greats from the past. When a classic lady exponent dances she may transmit almost fragility in her body sways and rotation, but this is illusory as the great ladies understand exactly how and when, to transmit very beautifully... so difficult to acquire functions and have ankle and feet articulation and she conceals her actual athleticism beautifully... is she you?

In a film the famed actor Jack Nicolson said “criticism is sanity” but most certainly this is not applicable to this marvellous dance festival... it is as if in the middle of a desert an oasis has appeared.


JUNIOR BALLROOM CHAMPIONSHIP SECOND ROUND.

The life blood of tomorrow..will it live up to expectations?.. will the majority of couples protect the principles and transmit elegance and sophistication, coupled to the flavour of the tango and quickstep? The chips are down and the roulette wheel spins.. will it fall on your number as winners?

154 have a nicely presented silhouette and are very promising although at the moment they lack fluidity of motion... time will assist its acquisition. 171 are tall, slim, and elegant and they merely need time to stabilise the principles of motion. Overall generally the juniors today are not yet competitive with the requirements of top class dance, and with the rest of the world showing amazing acquirements, it is necessary to work hard and concentrate to further develop the requirements so necessary. 158 a small couple, but they stand out as being the possessors of much to enjoy, and like within their dance performances. They should pick up full marks... some work required in tango to convey inside edges of ball of foot and not a high toe placement... just takes time and concentration... they are very promising. This young couple were able to release the body weights in quickstep and handled this very well. 148 promising, but dancing just over square and could develop shoulder leads to advantage and their shaping would show an instant improvement.


AMATEUR LATIN CHAMPIONSHIP

Zia James has changed physically as all ladies do and at thigh, knees, calves and foot, this ensures a new and terrific action of dance, which is a fabulous acquisition, and her young man of dance disguises his very subtle leads to allow her to encapsulate so much improved functionality. In this Latin championship, I find myself contemplating why the male exponents strive so hard, to bring attention to themselves, by crashing into other couples and being ferocious in their demands to control space. This was obvious in Samba and the use of the standing foot, from many, was so disguised to be almost hardly used. Rumba... the dance which demands subtlety, coupled to wondrous use of hands, fingers, legs and feet and especially ankles. I so remember the famous Lorraine who, with Walter Laird, exploded into Latin with superb nuances, coupled to musicality and also sensibility. Gee willikers I must be getting old fashioned and over picky eeh? Sorry but I cannot apologise. In Paso I can see a most famous Matador, named Manolete, and he was a bullfighter and was utterly classical and produced intensity without arrogance, and he was idolised in Spain and often a bull would miss him by fractions of an inch, as he daringly invited it to charge...

His body lines were expanded by curvature, so that the bull just missed him. I did see a young couple in the amateur championship where the young man looked like Donnie Burnsand it was no 18. At this couple stage, Donnie and Gaynor were like rockets fired and hurling themselves to the moon and beyond, and their dances became simply “Heavenly” .

I spot ultra famed Richard and Anne Gleave watching the events everyday intently, and inspiring dancers as they passed, because of their presence. Richard of course is the possessor of the CBE and this when translated means “Creativity Beyond Excellence” ... Along with other top exponents spectating they all combine, to create the Blackpool fervour an excitement... 60 in the latin amateur and this young lady understands characterisation aspects galore, and she uses her femininity to encapsulate the dances into clear messages, and particularly so, in this rumba.28 sudden inducement of sheer speed, which then clears and a gasp of fresh air is taken into a stillness, which in this Paso epitomises the bullfighter and his cape beautifully.


PROFESSIONAL BALLROOM CHAMPIONSHIP

Unfortunately numerical entry to this great event is at a low number, and it is such a pity, as it is, and still is, one of the highlights of the entire festival. However the couples concerned most certainly produced their dances and not only entertained, but also educated everyone who was fortunate enough to be there, in the Empress Ballroom. Flashing small notes to my pad and at the same time trying to analyse I found immensely difficult but it simply fascinating to see the differences over the dances, and also the battle for first place seemed to be between no 1 and no5 and the contrast between these two couples was as if it was John Wood and Anne and Marcus Hilton and Karen because of the difference in weight changes etc and I found this to be more satisfying and its memory will live for weeks as I attempt to see once again, through the gift of mental recall, how they danced... each to their own style and approach. No.5 produced a winning performance over all dances and this couple create blistering speed, lightness of action, and complexity of choreography and enhanced their already growing reputations, by protecting the principles and their stylistic silhouette production had been opened up to advantage. No.1 their immediate opponents had a completely different approach, where the weight changes were on the verge of greatness to my eyes, and who were able to use the standing phase, so that they could transmit lovely controlled body swing with exactitude of procedural activity. Their foxtrot was showing so well and there has been a major improvement slotted in with the use of this young man's feet so that they are producing ankles and feet, which are in alignment to their directional movements. They transmit a feeling that they are very dangerous opponents for the future, if they consolidate their undoubted talents. Quickstep in my eyes and ears was not their best performance dance, and could do with a rethink on the structure. Third-place went to no6, the new couple to the final, and they danced very well and are young and vibrant, with special talent for the time to come. I thought their use foot speed in foxtrot to be a trifle too fast in the placements at times. They are as yet inexperienced in professional championships but time will allow them to develop their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses. They are blessed with physical splendour and show a fervour, and excitement, for dance which augers well. They showed up well in tango and in quickstep and their viennese waltz has most evidently not been ignored in their training schedule. The floor space is immense, but every couple showed how to fill it up with superb fervour to which the spectators responded magnificently. What a superb three days this was... dance dance and more dance...simply awesome. No. 4 came into 4th place, with a lovely soft but so well controlled series of dances, and they never allowed outside circumstance to affect the performance and retained style and function. No.3 were in 5th placement and seemed a little out of their usual excellent use of style and substance, but their base actions were nicely presented, with good control of lowerings where necessary. No.8 were 6th and produced a nice performance looking good in tango, so we were able to sigh with the realisation that the great festival was almost over... we already look forward to next years festivals in the Winter Gardens and we commend the organiser Natalie Hayes coupled to her great team of Chrissie Sheppard and Tom Elson. They were under intense pressure but coped magnificently and of course Nicky Miles with a smile for every mile, and the three caballeros whose stewarting immaculate Michael Hayton, Stephen Hargreaves and Howard Cookson and of course the Empress Orchestra under the direction of Ashley Frohlick with Nicholas Kelly during the times the orchestra were not on stage.

Of course the daily attendance of the Managing Director Mr Michael Williams was most appreciated and he undoubtedly has his eyes and ears wide open, as did also Natalie, and her team so as to allow new ideas to ferment in their dance intellects...

Dancers can be liberated from mediocrity and for example Sophia Loren’s face is simply flawless, and her utter beauty is as if she is dancing a waltz in a haunted ballroom. Her facial expressions change and conveys invitational messages, created as if never rehearsed, but are the result of her utter maturity.. we call it characterisation.. and this is a stunning acquisition over the dances.

I hope the mini serial is a success and that I have not bored you...perhaps you may be inspired but the pictures I attempt to convey of what we call Dance...It is an all absorbing fanatical lifetime that keeps you interested, along with all the young and fervent couples who find their passion by competing and enjoying the fraternity which is available who dance or spectate.


Jack Reavely




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