For three years the BYU Ballroom Dance Company has been planning, preparing, practicing, and finalizing plans to participate again in the British Formation Dance Championships, in Blackpool, England. This is something the teams participate in every three years, and 2013 was the long expected next competition at this prestigious and world-recognized event. The competition occurred this past week, and was an amazing experience for all involved.
Lee and Linda Wakefield, as directors and architects of what has happened in preparation for this week, could not count the hours of effort and work, nor tally up the many tasks fulfilled to bring this visit to full fruition. But their efforts – and that of the 32 dancers, supported by 10 technicians and other support staff – were rewarded greatly this past week. The technicians included three extra special College of Engineering students on special assignment.
On Wednesday the Ballroom Formation Team finished their final preparations, and went to the Wintergardens in Blackpool for their presentation. It was nothing short of amazing. The glitter of the beautiful gowns, and the stately tuxedos was enhanced this year in a way never done before – with a fan of colored lights beneath the women’s skirts. Controlled by computer and computer chips (thanks to the Engineering support), these lights blinked and changed color in sequence with the moves and motions of the dancers. The result was breathtaking, and it was clear by the standing ovation of the Blackpool audience that they too appreciated the milestone this represented. “I’ve never seen anything like it” commented one official, who added, “Leave it up to the Americans to do something like this.” The Ballroom formation team did what they came to do, and celebrated enthusiastically afterward. In the +30 years of competing here by BYU groups, no one has ever seen a standing ! ovation before.
The Latin Formation team’s turn came on Friday, as they prepared their “Fire and Ice” competition routine, complete with special hair arrangements for men and women, and a surprise change in the womens’ dresses mid-routine. Their challenge was to be competitive against the Chinese, German, and English teams (2 from England) that also came to claim the formation crown. In the end, the exciting BYU choreography, men leaping into the air, exciting lifts of the women, and overall spectacular teamwork gave BYU the first prize in the latin category of the competitions. Holding their trophy aloft, they, too, could revel in the joy of a job well done and breathe a sigh of relief from the pressure of representing past BYU dance groups, the current program, and setting a standard for the future.
During the week in Blackpool, several of the students also competed in individual dance categories, with several moving on to later callbacks. Other students found time to visit the nearby beach, rollercoster and fun rides offered in Blackpool, and to explore shops and sights within the city. On Thursday, most of the group traveled by train north to the famous Lake District of England, near the city of Windermere. Here they enjoyed the beauty of the area around Lake Windermere, and enjoyed more variety of the English countryside.
The Blackpool competition ended on Friday, and on Saturday the tour continued with the first public performance of this tour in Sheffield, England, at Sheffield’s City Hall Auditorium. Here, to over 1,200 people the presentation of “Capture the Magic” by the BYU Ballroom Dance Company was enthusiastically received as a public event supporting a benefit for the Marie Curie Cancer Fund. Here the group built on initial support they offered in 2010 to this worthy cause, more than doubling what was accomplished that year. Four area Lord Mayors were hosted prior to the performance in a special reception; they were effusive in praise of the performance afterward.
The Ballroom Dance Company has now traveled south to London, historic and cultural center of Britain, for their final days in England before continuing on to Germany and Switzerland next week. They will give a grand performance in London next week.