Posted on October 9, 2014
Fun was certainly the name of the game on Saturday, October 4 London when the tenth annual UK Saturday Fun Competition took place at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London. The contest is an informal and fun practice competition for starter, beginner and improver same-sex couples, with some fun dances for mixed couples and individual line dancing.
Compère Vernon Kemp kept proceedings moving along with his quick wit and dance anecdotes, with adjudication by Glenn Wright and music provided by Ralf Schiller. ESSDA co-president Hadass Armon presented the certificates and prizes (“everyone gets a certificate, but only the winners get sweeties”, teased Vernon) and Bradley and Sören Stauffer-Kruse (pictured left), competition co-ordinators, took home the showdance trophy.
Bradley told me, “This competition gives an opportunity for those who have seen, and maybe been intimidated by, the competition at somewhere like Blackpool. They see how much is spent on the costumes and may be scared off when even the D class standard is very good. If you only encourage the A and B classes, there will be no one coming through in the future. The starter contests give the opportunity for complete beginners and the afternoon also provides an opportunity to dance with people you normally would never get the chance to.” As he said this Heather Devine, one of Britain’s top same-sex competitors, swept past clearly enjoying herself with a randomly assigned partner.
Bradley introduced me to Stuart Barrett, who started giving same-sex classes in Sheffield in January. He had brought a party of ten to the Rivoli to experience their first competition. He explained, “In June we went to see the European Championships in Blackpool and wanted to take part in the next available competition. We spent six weeks learning all the steps, including the line dances, so everyone knew what to do, and we are having a great time”. Bradley was keen that same-sex dancing was not seen as only London-based. “There is not much happening outside London yet, and even with Blackpool the entire London contingent travels up there, so it’s really encouraging that things are starting to happen elsewhere”.
One of the treats of the afternoon was the Six-Legs Rumba (pictured right), where three men danced together, and the winners gave a very amusing performance despite claiming to only having practised the routine together the night before. There were two couples in contention for the showdance trophy, Penny Johnson and Angela Brooks who gave an elegant and well-shaped performance, and Bradley and Sören who triumphed with their cheeky and well-timed Charleston-based extravaganza.
Highlighting the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, Rivoli regular Fiona Brownfoot arrived late and a little stressed, due to her car breaking down on the motorway. She had never met her dance partner, Yvette Stone from Doncaster, they had organised their choreography by email and they launched straight into one of the general dances by way of an introduction. They were more than a little delighted in their very first competition to make it into the C class final, achieving third place in quickstep and waltz.
The afternoon certainly provided great entertainment and the vital function was to give newcomers a no-pressure platform to begin their competitive dancing. As Len Goodman would say, “Just get out there and give it a go!”
Words: Kim Thompson
Photograph: Murray Thompson