Blackpool National Grand Finals 2018

It’s been a whole month since the ISTD Ballroom & Latin National Grand Finals at the Winter Gardens in November.  Life has been super busy since then but more about what I’ve been upto in upcoming posts!

Friday 2nd November saw the start of the dance weekend with my usual spray tan in the morning then 4 hour journey ‘up north’ with bags and cases full of not just clothes but dresses, shoes, makeup, sparkles with the added fancy dress costume for the Saturday evening social event in the Empress Ballroom.

DanceRite Family taking part in the Fancy Dress Musical’s theme.  
Photo by Fredric Frennessen 

The Saturday evening was a chance to enjoy an event in the Ballroom having a dance, a quick practice or get reacquainted with that wonderful dance floor again having not stepped on it for a year.  There tends to be a fancy dress theme which is always fun, this year being no exception and having a ‘Musicals’ brief to fit with, a friend of mine suggested we should try and get as many of our dance friends to go as CATS!  Some had already chosen their outfits looking fab also!  As always it was a super fun evening with a dance Caberet of professional Ballroom and Latin dancers for that spot of inspiration ahead of the following day’s competition.

Competition Day

The Sunday morning for me this year started a bit later.  I am now at Gold level and also qualified as I was in finals at regional competitions during the year so my first round time wasn’t until 1pm.  As a Makeup Artist I am asked about doing competition makeup however I generally do not take on any clients on a day where I am also competing as I need to focus on me!  That said with such a later start time I took one person on for makeup, my friend Jo.  

Rachel Maslin Mua
Jo’s Makeup look

Once I had finished Jo’s makeup I started on my own.  Over the years, even though my makeup look has developed and changed, I have gotten much quicker at applying it and doing my hair.  

Rachel Maslin MUA
My Makeup done ready for the competition 

Heading to the Ballroom with hair and makeup done doesn’t feel as strange as it used to!  Now it’s just ‘well, I’m a Dancer!’ and off I go with dresses and shoes ready to go!

The Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens hosts many events during the year including major Dance events where world-class dancers compete in their Championships so it can be quite overwhelming to walk into such an iconic dance venue with the grandeur of the chandlers and ornate ceilings but I absolutely love it!

Time to Dance

My first round in Ballroom was a Waltz.  The choice from two out of a hat means that we don’t find out until we are on the floor which dance it will be.  The initial round always feels a bit like an out-of-body experience and before I know it, I’m off the floor, wishing I could do it again and do it better.  That said, an hour and a half later when the recalls were made, my number was called and I was then able to dance the Viennese Waltz.  I didn’t make it to the final round however if there’s one thing I will now remember about being on the floor during the semi-final, it is that I recall looking up at the upper balcony and as weird as it sounds, actually thinking to myself  ‘I’m really enjoying this’!  It sounds odd because you’d think that’s why I dance, because I enjoy it.  That’s true however sometimes on the dance floor the mind can be overtaken with worry about things such as whether my footwork is correct or did I just miss a step,  which is completely counter-productive but equally uncontrollable most of the time! I think that it was the first time that I was conscious that I didn’t ‘think’ and just enjoyed being on the floor!  Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy dancing, but something about that Viennese Waltz round at that time, on that floor struck something for me.  Feedback from my Teacher once off the floor was that I was dancing better than in any previous competitions so the results aren’t everything as sometimes it’s enough to know there’s development in the dance journey.

The Latin round came quite some time later and I danced a Samba.  As much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t make the final recall to dance Cha Cha.  I always get someone to video me dancing so that I can see what I’ve done, how I’ve danced, what I need to work on in my next lesson but also what’s going on on the floor around me and how the others are also dancing.  

Couples Events

Couples Ballroom was an interesting round!  A few weeks prior to Blackpool, Jo and I had decided to enter the Couples Ballroom event dancing Tango where I would dance as leader.  We had time to only have a few practices of quite a basic routine but even basic routines, when shown well can do well.  We were absolutely amazed to have been recalled into the final and the look on our faces when our number was called out into 4th place was even better!  The Latin section dancing Rumba with Jess was on an extremely busy and super competitive floor and unfortunately we weren’t recalled further but any time on the floor is always a good thing!

The Blackpool visit wouldn’t be complete without our little ‘after-party‘ of Pizza and drinks in the bar at the hotel with however many of the DanceRite family can make it!  It’s such a long and tiring day though, some just need to get to their beds … or start the long drive home if they weren’t staying.

All in all, Blackpool is a whole experience, not just a dance competition.  It’s fun times and there’s always memories to be made!  I cannot Thank enough the DanceRite Teachers Fredric and Vicki Frennessen for their hard work and encouragement all year.  That was my 9th Blackpool visit and my 8th at the Winter Gardens!  In a few weeks (January), I will have been at DanceRite for 10 years!!  So Blackpool next year for me is my 10th Blackpool and also my final year at Gold Syllabus…quite a scary thought … but an exciting one all the same!

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