Boys in bow ties and vests, young men and older men dressed sharply in their black or white shirts and black trousers, take to the dance floor and stand stiffly, while the females in their fancy gowns and dresses, make-up to highlight features, smile prettily at them. With hands outstretched it is the signal for their female partners to step gracefully into the hold, back arched and head thrown back. The music starts, they count off and the dancers glide gracefully and elegantly across the floor.
It is the first ever Its Strictly Ballroom competition held last Saturday at The St Leonards Boys’ School, after 12 years in the making. Organiser Robert Boyce, the president of Jahbulani Dance Club, said the timing was never right but “it was now or never”.
With a moderate audience turnout, it was enough to let the dancers know that their craft is appreciated as it takes guts and courage to do what they do.
The dance floor itself isn’t packed, another disappointment with each category fielding sometimes one couple but no more than seven dancing the waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennesse waltz and quickstep. Each couple is battling for just a fleeting glance of one judge’s attention and the bright outfits do help. While not as vibrant as its Latin counterpart, ballroom has the same international standards where the judges look for poise, posture, footwork, timing, floorcraft among others.
There was a 10-dance section where couples danced the ballroom components of waltz, tango, foxtrot, Vienesse waltz and quickstep and then returned to do the cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive which were the highlights of the night.
From as young as seven years old to as old as 60 and with nineteen categories ranging from juveniles and junior beginners, juniors and youth to masters and proams, over eight dance clubs were represented and it was a pity many familiar faces were missing.
Even so, don’t let the category of beginners and novice fool you. If you are expecting clumsy footwork, think again. There are rising stars in Azario Grannum and Mahalia Morris, Tyriq Daniel and Tarika Husbands, Christian Beckles and Shemiaa Carrington and Alexander Greaves and Danielle Jones who either placed first or second.
The enthusiastic crowd soaked up the inventive and dynamic cheoreography of Josiah Haynes and Jaicee Armstrong and Shane Alleyne and Sheryl Forde – dynamic dancing duos who complement each other in their strong and powerful styles. Haynes and Armstrong placed first in youth novice and second in the youth 10-dance which was five ballroom and five Latin dances. Alleyne and Forde were automatic winners as lone entrants in the youth intermediate and took first place in the youth 10-dance category.
Ross Harris and Kara Cutting must be accustomed to first place as they cut a cute couple gliding effortlessly around the floor and while Harris is a stoic young man, he is balanced out by the expressive Cutting.
Mark Burgess is a professional dancer and it shows in his artistry and technique but he and partner Madonna Gollop had to take second to Romario Bates and Tiffany Lynch who showed they came to win.
While Burgess brought the flair, musicality, style and expression he is well known for, ballroom is not judged on strength and Bates has improved by leaps, spins and jumps. While his showmanship is always a thrill to watch, Bates overshadowed Lynch just a bit, even though the man is to lead. Bates and Lynch dominated the 10-dance category with a tight choreography, spirited performance and panache to take nine firsts and one second.
Some of the other winners were Carl Broomes and Shauna Yearwood in the adult novice, Delano Wickham and Kaila Bovell-Lewis in the juniors advance, Khristen Lowe and Danielle Hall in the youth beginners, George Hurley and Cheryl Brathwaite-Small in the proams and Dorian Beckles and Margaret Bovell-Lewis in the masters intermediate.