National Grand Finals Day
7 April 2011
10/10/10 - a memorable date and certainly a memorable day!
Many DFR teachers had been working towards this date since the beginning of the year and finally the day had arrived, at the end of which we would know who would be crowned the National Set Dance Champions for 2010. After a year of area competitions held throughout the country, all the regional winners in the respective age groups and categories were descending on the Spectrum Centre in Guildford in the hope of winning one of these coveted titles. Of course there could only be one winner but as the DFR Faculty Chairman, Yvonne Taylor-Hill, reminded us all in her welcoming address, they were already winners in qualifying for Grand Finals!
The changes to the qualification criteria made by the DFR Faculty and welcomed by all teachers and parents alike, meant that the number of qualifiers in some events was much higher than in previous years. Although this presented a headache for the organising committee, especially poor Patsy Graham trying to keep all the teachers happy with their ticket allocations, it resulted in a large number of ‘first time’ qualifiers whose mixture of apprehension and excitement added a new dimension to the day.
The now traditional School Banner Parade commenced the day’s proceedings, with representatives from all the schools in attendance marching around the hall led by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the DFR Faculty Committee. This was an opportunity for everyone to show their support for all the qualifiers, and helped every school, large or small, to feel proud of being a part of such a unique day.
Next, our main compère for the day, Nicky Miles, with his own incomparable style, introduced the members of the DFR Faculty Committee, who as well as working hard to prepare the day, were to be the adjudicators for the Set Dance and Rock ‘n’ Roll events. The floor was split into red and blue halves, and we were set to begin.
The dedication, enthusiasm, attention to detail and sheer delight in performing was apparent from the youngest Under 8s to the more mature Over 25s. Everyone was trying to catch the eye of the judges with their own special personality and characterisation, whilst remaining true to the original Set Dance. However, the sheer excitement on occasions resulted in a few discrepancies in arm lines and movements, making the job for the adjudicators even harder!
The standard across all of the different categories was exceptional, whether Freestyle, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Street or Slow in style, with beautiful extension and clarity of movement coupled with great energy, centre body action and definition both in arm lines and foot and ankle usage. Especially in the lower grades, virtually all of the qualifiers could have been finalists, and such was the standard on the day that many events had seven or even eight in the final.
Well done to every competitor who took part. You were all stars and helped to make this a very special day and who knows 2011 may be your year!
Set Dance Winners
Under 6 / Under 8 Rosettes – Lily Tidey
Under 10 Social Dance Tests / Pre-Bronze – Daniella Harris
Under 12 Social Dance Tests / Pre-Bronze – Emily Dart
Under 14 Bronze and Below – Eliot Manning
Over 14 Bronze and Below – Niamh McNiff
Under 10 Bronze / Silver – Courtney Sherwin
Under 12 Bronze / Silver – Amy Brown
Under 14 Silver / Gold – Ellie Sealey
Over 14 Silver / Gold – Sophie Vinter
Under 10 / 12 Gold Star and Awards – Jorgia Vaughan
Under 14 Gold Star and Awards – Sienna Hayes
Under 16 Gold Star and Awards – Hayley Young
Over 16 Gold Star and Awards – Melissa Park
Over 25 – Suzy Goater
The enthusiasm had not dimmed for this section. After a quick costume change and practice, the Pairs events began. Despite the high number of competitors, the well organised rounds ran smoothly, ensuring the day also ran to schedule. The choreography was imaginative and seems to get better every year. Good contact and partner awareness were seen at every level and some of the higher grade dancers were amazing as their pairs routines glided round the dance floor with outstanding poise and unity.
This section was exciting to watch; the hard work and practice the dancers had put in throughout the year had certainly paid off as the recalls brought back the talented couples to the floor. The determination of the dancers was evident as with each round the couples seem to dance harder and stronger, giving an even more outstanding performance than the round before. It is so lovely to see the dancers performing as couples yet still maintaining the wonderful technique, poise and timing seen in the previous Set Dance section.
I felt very proud, not only as a teacher of my own pupils, but to be part of the ISTD DFR Faculty and taking part in this prestigious annual competition event. The standards throughout the day were breathtaking, showing how versatile DFR can be, from amazing Street style to strong and powerful Slow Dance and to precise accurate, exciting Rock ‘n’ Roll. I am sure everybody is looking forward to next year and has already started the hard work and training towards hopefully gaining a place in the DFR National Grand Finals 2011 on 9th October at the Guildford Spectrum.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
The excitement was mounting as we came to the National Grand Finals of the Rock ‘n’ Roll competition. The competitors were warming-up and the energy coming from the floor was electric. With great anticipation the Under 8s and Under 10s took to the floor. These young children were showing well toned feet with neat Basic Actions. The overall standard of these lower grades was amazing.
Next was the turn of the Under 12 Social Dance Test / Pre-Bronze and Bronze / Silver levels. They all displayed an imaginative mixture of Syllabus Figures and Compound Steps with a bright array of costumes. We then moved on to the Over 12 sections. They all demonstrated crisp, sharp, neat and lively Basic Actions. The Gold Star grades danced a great mixture of interesting variations, excellent partner work and used many jumps and lifts.
The first rounds were completed by the Over 16s who had stunning costumes, tremendous stamina and amazing energy right through to the end. It was hard to believe we were watching the first rounds and not the finals! As the recalls were announced for the second round, the competitors eagerly waited for their numbers to be called. The standard of dancing was now very high as the couples were fighting for a place in the semi-final. Members of the DFR Faculty Committee who were judging had the unenviable task of selecting the couples to go forward to the next round. The couples were all showing fantastic routines.
Eventually it was finals time and you could tell by the smile on the competitors’ faces how delighted they were to be included in these prestigious finals. By this point the standard was so high that any one couple could have been the winner. The competition was closed by a dance-off, obviously the adjudicators found it hard to separate the couples right to the very end.
The results were announced and the prizes were presented by the ISTD Chief Executive, Mr Julian Amey and Grand Council member, Miss Betty Bouston.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Winners
Under 6 / Under 8 Rosettes – Jasmin Wearn / Sophie England
Under 10 Social Dance Tests / Pre-Bronze – Hannah Cummins / Fiona Kidd
Under 12 Social Dance Tests / Pre-Bronze – Lauren Damiral / Bradley Bird
Under 14 Bronze and Below – Eliot Manning / Megan Williams
Over 14 Bronze and Below – Maria White / Alice Steers
Under 10 Bronze / Silver – Tori Rowland / Courtney Sherwin
Under 12 Bronze / Silver – Sophie Beale / Erin Windmill
Under 14 Silver / Gold – Charlotte Lockley / Effie Hastelow
Over 14 Silver / Gold – Jade McGeoch / Sarah Butchart
Under 12 Gold and Above – Caitlin Hardaker / Jade Buttle
Under 14 Gold Star and Awards – Betsy Morton / Chloe Barrett-Blake
Under 16 Gold Star and Awards – Lauren Turner / Jaime Morton
Over 16 Gold Star and Awards – Tia Thorp / Jasmine Stickley
The last event of the day, and a change in atmosphere as the Rock ‘n’ Roll music changes to the fast beats of modern and remixed golden oldies blasting from the speakers, skirts and scarves are swapped for leotards, stones and feathers, and we are ready for Solos.
First up, the very well presented Under 6s / Under 8s who each year seem to improve, their standard now meeting that of the older categories.
The floors were swarming with bright colours, sparkle and more energy than you would expect from dancers who had been going strong for nine hours. Looking out in each category, there was a sea of arms, legs and heads bouncing up and down, bodies weaving in and out of one another, dancers using their best moves, attacking each one with such sharp dynamics, fantastic lines and extension. But what I notice is the control, along with the flexibility, fast spins and elevation movements shown in this expressive event. The continuous high standard of dancing throughout shows what a good job all teachers are doing during the year leading to this fantastic day! Trying to pick a grade or age group who set the standard was impossible as each was as good as the other, the boys definitely giving the girls a run for their money almost ‘flying’ around the dance floor in certain rounds.
The Over 25s had the loveliest smiles demonstrating their passion for what they were doing. What was so interesting was the modest starting positions, creating an element of suspense before bursting into an enormous opening to the routines, Bronze and Below categories displaying beautiful simpler Steps and Actions, whereas the Silver and Above grades explore more intricate sequences pushing the boundaries of their bodies and movement vocabulary. The adjudicators definitely had their work cut out in this Solos event, resulting in eight-person finals, and the dancers' stamina was certainly put to test because of this.
What an excellent way to finish such a wonderful competition. I have to agree with our Vice-Chairman, Mr Paul Streatfield, today was most definitely the “biggest and best medallists’ finals ever”. Thank you to the panel of adjudicators, Jill Bush, Mary Deville, Derek Green, June Green, Moya Jordan and Tony Palmer, also DJ ‘Justin’, and Nicky Miles and his team of Scrutineers. Finally, thank you to all on the DFR Faculty Committee, teachers, dancers and supporters without whom, all of this would not be possible.