DanceStory (pt III) – The Inter-Varsity Circuit

My last blog post on ballroom dancing was in the summer of 2010. I reflected upon my first competition and wondered how I would fare when I came back to Scotland for my final year at the University of Edinburgh: would DanceSport still be there? Would I enjoy doing it as much as I did in the USA? Would I fit it in amongst my studying?

Well, I have good news to report…

I’m not too hard to miss, am I? These two lovely promo films of Edinburgh University Ballroom Dancing Society (EUBDS) were put together by our resident Social Media Guru Caroline during the academic year of 2010-11.

EUBDS at Blackpool

During that year I got involved with:

* Training sessions several times a week.

Offbeat, Blackpool

EUBDS ran a Partnering Session during the first few weeks of term. I admit that I was apprehensive about the Blind Date nature of going along, and afraid of shame that would ensue if I didn’t get partnered up. After all, I’d gone along to Penn’s DanceSport training nights at the start of their second semester, but the reason I didn’t continue was because everyone was partnered up. My fears were unfounded: I got a DancePartner, we were well-matched and had a very  successful partnership. The social nature of the club and availability issues meant that I actually competed with several different partners at the Northern Universities and Inter-Varsity championships. And if I turned up to class I was almost certainly going to get a shot with somebody friendly.

* Competitions. Everybody in EUBDS was keen to do well at competitions,

Offbeat at NUDC

but DanceSport was never the most important thing. My attitude to competing was therefore very healthy. Yes, I’m a competitive person by nature, but I also know when to take a step back. DanceSport was no longer a dangerously seductive menace, it was something I had a handle on. This year I also had tangible results and achievements. My DancePartner and I were recalled 3 times to reach the semi-finals of Novice Quickstep at our first comp, which was a great start to my time on the Inter-varsity circuit. Other highlights included:

– Reaching the Finals of the Intervarsity Jive at the same event. This is the “fun” category, where you are randomly assigned new partners in every heat. My social dancing experience paid off here.

– Several recalls in the Old Time (Waverley Two-Step) category at NUDC.

Old Time Waverley Two-Step at NUDC

Old Time dances are sequence dances with quaint names. Although not the most hotly-contested category, if you have a good performance in them it set the rest of the day off nicely.

Team Match, Waltz at Blackpool

– Getting a recall in the Latin rounds at Blackpool.The UK-wide competition is of a very high standard. After we didn’t make the cut in the morning Standard rounds, I was quietly very determined to get through at least one round of Latin. And we did!

– Getting recalled to the semi-finals of Novice Jive, despite the fact that I was dancing with a bloke I’d never even met before…our first dance together was the also the first competitive heat…he was the competition DJ…he was in fact dancing Lindy Hop. This happened at Manchester Spring Comp: it was the middle of my exams and I just wanted a weekend off, so I agreed to go along with the contingent of EUBDS folk and see if there was any spare men when I got there. While not my most technically precise set of heats, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard during competitive dances. DJ partner and I were playing to the audience (who certainly seemed to be rooting for such an unlikely couple) and having a good time. It’s just nice that we got some recalls out of it:  chemistry, enjoyment and energy DO sometimes count in DanceSport…

Rock 'n' Roll, Manchester Spring Comp

* Offbeat and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The former is a team dance category, no ballroom dance moves allowed. EUBDS entered a jazzy number featuring a medley from the musical Chicago. The latter is a competitive category closely related to Lindy Hop/swing (Rock ‘n’ Roll is a genre of swing all by itself), the competitive event featuring fast swing music is a freestyle mix of Lindy, Charleston and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Training sessions and classes were offered: I signed up. I ended up having lots of good times rehearsing and competing in them.

* Showcases. I took part in the EUBDS Showcase and the university-wide CSE DanceShow. It made a truly wonderful break from studying. In the spirit of EUBDS’ “just give it a go” inclusiveness I did the Jive on one night as a follower, the other as a leader. Not that I’d even practiced the leading role before I volunteered to try it…but it worked out fine!

Rock 'n' Roll, NUDC

* Mucking around. I took an afternoon off from the library to act as an extra for the EUBDS footage you can see in our RBS promo video. We had a lot of fun coming up with and executing the outdoor skits. With EUBDS I took part in pub crawls, karaoke, ceilidhs, film nights, Balls and late night chats in the bar after classes. When I first told my non-dancing folk about ballroom dancing, I learned that there’s a perception of dancers as being a bit…well…snooty. The average EUBDS memberI know is very far removed from being snooty, in fact they’re downright lovely. You might even find yourself WANTING to spend more time with them…

I remain profoundly grateful to EUBDS for giving me a second wonderful year of DanceSport and allowing me to adjust to life after Philadelphia. Their personal website can be found at this location, and their Facebook Fan Page…here. I do recommend you check them out if you’re in Edinburgh, or in fact anywhere on the UK DanceSport circuit. The next Chapter of my DanceStory shall appear once it happens, no doubt. I’ll keep you posted…

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