The Utah Valley University (UVU) Ballroom Dance Company placed first in both the Latin Formation and the Ballroom Formation competitions at the Blackpool Dance Festival in Blackpool, England. With Latin medley choreography by Rick Robinson, Kayci and Casey Treu and Standard medley choreography by Andres and Veronika End, UVU’s company beat teams from England and the Czech Republic. They already have four winning titles from the competition, but it’s their first time winning both the Ballroom and Latin titles in the same year.
Blackpool Dance Festival is a serious ballroom competition that began in 1920 in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. The competition invites participants to compete in Ballroom and Latin American dancing. It is widely considered as the World Cup of the ballroom world.
Tara Boyd, Artist in Residence in Ballroom Dance at UVU, has been teaching at UVU since 2005 and coaching the tour team since 2015. Having never seen the team nab two wins within one festival, she is thrilled for her students that they are adding this set of awards to their ever-growing trophy case.
“I am so excited,” Boyd said. “It’s a dream come true to be able to take first at such a prestigious competition in both events.”
The team arrived in Blackpool on May 28th and spent a few days recovering from jet lag and rehearsing in the competition space in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, which is where the Blackpool competition is held every year.
“When we first walked into the ballroom, everybody was in awe and you could just feel the excitement that everybody had,” said Collin Williams, who just finished his final year on the team. He also competed at Blackpool five years ago. “The Winter Gardens is outstanding and it’s just beautiful. So walking back in, it takes your breath away.”
On top of the morning rehearsals, dancers set aside time during the day to meet either in the hotel lobby, lounge, or even the parking lot to tighten their numbers. They also watched videos they recorded as a team to identify places for improvement. According to Grace Knox, dance captain of the Standard medley and recent UVU graduate, all the dancers were eager to work hard and keep the energy positive and encouraging.
Boyd said that the groups and their routines were judged based on the quality of dancing. Judges paid special attention to dancers’ technique, the cleanliness of lines, and unity among the teams. Music selection, costuming, and grooming played a part as well.
This year, Boyd said, the competition still had certain COVID-19 regulations, so the dancers were unsure they’d be able to compete until about a month before the event. She is proud of the students for persevering amidst uncertainty. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of extra hours. I think that’s one of the reasons that they won. They just kept believing that it would happen and kept working hard — and it did happen.”
“Winning was an experience that’s hard to describe,” Knox said. “It’s a moment when you realize all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve put in for the last year has finally paid off. There is a massive sense of accomplishment that accompanies the championship title, as well as a special bond that is shared with my fellow teammates. We all worked so hard, and put in countless hours to reach that win. Needless to say, there were many happy tears that evening.”
To learn more about the UVU Ballroom Company, visit their website.