Anticipation - and hairspray - were thick in the air in Vanbrugh Dining Hall this afternoon ahead of the non-beginners Latin dancing competition. Vibrant and intricate costumes of deep-sea blue, burnt umber and neon yellow lit up the dancefloor as the audience was immediately enthralled by the couples’ warmups. A few minor collisions during practice set the stage for an afternoon of excitement.
The fierce competition kicked off with two heats for the first category: a three-dance selection of Cha Cha, Samba and Jive. From these competitors, just 12 couples would be picked to head into the semi-finals. Both York and Lancaster saw a good turnout, with the crowd continually cheering the contestants' spirits as the high-intensity dances with only short breaks in between started to take their toll. This first jive was a real highlight, with couples singing along to Olly Murs’ peppy pop hit “Dance with Me Tonight” as they flicked and kicked their way across the dancefloor. With so many couples, it was difficult to pick out standout favourites at this stage - but couple number 1 on the York side received some especially loud support each time they entered the stage.
Next up, the Open Rumba semi-final slowed things down with Lady Gaga’s haunting “Shallow” as the contestants’ movements became more lyrical and delicate. Lancaster’s couple 29 were now defining themselves as ones to watch as they switched seamlessly between the different styles with grace and flair, never seeming to fatigue.
The Open Paso Doble semi-final brought onstage tension to a high with fiery traditional Spanish music coaxing the couples through their sharp, staccato movements. The first significant crash of the afternoon’s activities between couples 11 and 35, both from York, sent both couples spinning, but they recovered well. This seemed to set up a bad omen for the dancers, as the following Cha Cha semi-final featured continual crashes as the couples fought for the centre of the floor.
Further drama was ensured with a wardrobe malfunction for Lancaster’s couple number 23 in the Samba semi-final interrupting their thus far electric performance. In the last of this three-dance semi-final, Megan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband” accompanied another bright and fun jive, with some particularly fancy footwork being showcased by both York and Lancaster couples alike.
The Open Rumba’s beautiful and tender semi-final ushered in a pause for deliberation, with all couples taking to the floor to entertain the audience with the slightly less technical “Cha Cha Slide”. After such a fast-paced and tense start to the competition, it was heartwarming to watch the dancers relax with other couples, even featuring some inter-university friendly dancing pairs.
This easy camaraderie didn’t last for long, however, as the heat was turned right back up with the Paso Doble final. Just one York couple made it to this stage, with couple number 35 fighting hard but unable to compete with the sheer level of Lancaster talent and ultimately coming in last. It was a well-deserved win for Lancaster’s couple 29, who married technical skill and creative flair perfectly. They also placed first in the Rumba final, but were challenged intensely with the precision and chemistry of York’s couple number 1.
The three-dance final was hotly anticipated and an electric atmosphere welcomed the seven couples to the dancefloor. A cover of the Four Seasons classic “Beggin” was a perfect choice to kick off the Cha Cha, with couples reacting to the fuller and groovier sound with lots of energy. A few collisions kicked off the Samba Final, but all couples found their feet and kept the audience entertained as they bounded across the dancefloor. Ending on the fan-favourite Jive, “One Way or Another” roared through the speakers as the couples managed to balance dizzying spins and sharply retracted kicks with singing along to the chart topping hit. Once again, the unbeatable couple number 29 took the top spot, with the two York couples that made it to the final placing in sixth and seventh.
A charity dance while the judges deliberated with the feel of a sort of dancing musical chairs - the music constantly shifted between the different Latin styles, with competitors being eliminated for slow transitions - boasted a familial atmosphere, with even some audience members joining in! While Lancaster may have dominated the non-beginners Latin dancing competition this year, spectators from both sides enjoyed an afternoon with the perfect balance of ferocity and fun.