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Out and About with the ISTD Chair

Out and About with the ISTD Chair

25 January 2018

Sue Passmore shares her latest news

I would like to focus on several examples of the extraordinary dedication and achievements of our members that I have encountered recently. The latter end of 2017 has had so many highlights, surprises and most importantly a reality check for potential growth in building our future.

On Saturday 4th November the Blackpool Grand Finals was a triumph and without the tireless effort of the remarkable Nicky Miles might never have been possible. The Empire Ballroom had been forced to close for essential repair to the roof, however, miraculously it was encased with scaffolding and the organisers produced their usual highly prestigious event.

Dance Proms sadly faced the end of an era and this year’s performance was, without doubt, spectacular in diversity and quality of technical underpinning across the age spectrum. XS Latin, guest artists at Dance Proms, wrote the following:

XS Latin coach and ISTD member David Mallabone was delighted to receive a call from Sue Passmore inviting the team to perform as guest artists at the prestigious 2017 Dance Proms. 

David was one of the founder members in 1997 before becoming part of the coaching team in 2005. The club continues to have close links with the Cambridge University Dancesport team with its current members being largely, although not solely, made up of current or former students at the University. XS Latin specialises in Latin Formation dancing, which includes the five International Latin dances and requires teams of couples to dance them in ever-changing patterns and with tight synchronization.

The team is largely a competitive team and indeed, Sue and David first met to discuss the Dance Proms performance after the team had become the first British team in eight years to win the British Open Latin Formation Championship in Blackpool. However, the team also perform demonstrations and the show at the Royal Albert Hall promised to be an unforgettable one. Their current routine, based on the Broadway musical Wicked, XS Latin won the 2017 British Open Latin Formation Champions, British National Formation Champions, and UK Adult Formation Champions.

Sam Rowe is studying for a Doctorate in Organic Chemistry. He had not danced before coming to Cambridge to study and has now danced ballroom and latin for two years. Sam said, “after putting my books down in the evening, I devote most of my free time in the week to dance training and see it as a wonderful release from the rigours of academic work at such a high level.

Kirsty Davies is a former student of Experimental Psychology at Cambridge University. She now works for a medical research company as a Principal Clinical Research Scientist but continues to dance with XS Latin. Kirsty studied lots of dance forms as a child, including tap, ballet, and disco but started her career in ballroom and latin on arriving at Cambridge. She said, “It was an honour to dance as a guest act for Dance Proms on behalf of the ISTD. The setting and the lighting were utterly incredible and the whole evening inspired me to want to dance as well as I can. An evening I will never forget.

Thomas Nelson is currently studying Classics at Cambridge. He has been a member of XS Latin for three years and, in that time, has competed in Germany, Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands with the team. Reflecting on Dance Proms, Thomas said, “It was a real honour to perform in such a prestigious venue, and the atmosphere on the night was incredible: the applause of the audience, the building’s excellent acoustics, and all the lighting effects made the show feel very special.”

XS Latin is very grateful to Sue and the ISTD for the kind invitation to perform at such a spectacular event and to the wonderful audience for their incredible and enthusiastic reception. It is particularly special to be able to perform at an event where dance in all its forms is celebrated and honoured and the atmosphere and respect of all the performers backstage was testament to this.

It is to be hoped that there will be opportunities to promote a new initiative at the Royal Albert Hall, which is, without doubt, our most important, iconic venue for recognising international music and dance for global ‘well-being’.

The Malaysian Awards culminated a month of ISTD teaching and examinations. For both Ginny Brown, Artistic Director and myself it was the first time to visit Kuala Lumpur. Although the schedule was tight we were able to observe different aspects of ISTD delivery throughout the short visit. The organisation, energy and dynamic at every level was outstanding.

Throughout my career recognising potential skill and an indefinable quality of dance performance has been rewarded in many ways and this visit did not disappoint.

Sherina Hamzah was working with two other young teachers led by Jackie Barnes on the Grade 5 Modern syllabi. This was the first class Ginny and I watched after speaking to Sherina. After the class I asked her to share her profile with me for DANCE Magazine:

"I have been teaching the ISTD Tap and Modern work since I opened my studio in 1999. I love teaching and absolutely enjoy all the work in both Tap and Modern. The design of the syllabus trains young dancers well, and at this stage, already have several students around the world finding jobs as teachers, dancers, or in various fields in the performing arts. My studio is now 18 years old and I am thankful that it is still thriving. I have 15 teachers working in my centre and about 500 students. This year I opened a new branch, which will serve as a suitable black box space for in-house productions. 

I obtained my Tap Fellowship in 2012 and two years later obtained my Modern Fellowship. It is my proudest achievement as a teacher because I used to admire all the examiners and tutors coming to my country with the initials ‘FISTD’ and to be able to use that behind my name is, for lack of better words ‘awesome’.

I have also spent a significant amount of time choreographing and entering groups for competitions locally. In 2014 and 2016 I was awarded the Mercedes Benz Award for Creative Excellence by the Director of the KUALA LUMPUR PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE.

Other than that I spend my free time with my three children who are nine, six and two years old."

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