Dancers from across the UK quickstepped their way to Derngate last weekend to compete in Northampton’s first ever Ballroom and Latin Dance Festival.
The inaugral Northampton Dance Festival was organised by Andrzej Mialkowski of Step by Step Dance School, which has studios in Northampton and Oxford, and was endorsed by the British Dance Council (BDC).
More than 60 couples competed for the national league titles and trophies and the event ran throughout the day and evening, culminating in the grand final of the Junior Strictly Champions event and the National League Ballroom and Latin competitions.
Dancers from the age of 12 through to seniors took part and the judging panel was made of experts including Bryan Allen, who is president of the BDC, Robert Barley, Lorrain Kuznik and Richard Still. The event was compered by Viv Rhymes of Step by Step and the official strutineers were Martin and Sarah Bird from the BDC. Sally Andrew compered the Junior Strictly contest, where hundreds of local school children across the neighbouring counties were given the opportunity to represent their area.
Polish-born Mr Mialkowski said: “History has been made in Northampton as this was the town’s first ever Ballroom and Latin competition. We’ve had junior world champions taking part and one couple came from New Zealand to dance here. This year has been a learning curve and has been a great success, but we want to stage it bigger and better next year and open it to the world.”
Przemek Fokt won the National League Ballroom competition with his dance partner, primary school teacher Gemma Leggett, even though they’ve only been dancing together for four weeks.
He said: “It has been a very well organised competition and having such a wonderful audience was very supportive for the dancers as they created a great atmosphere. It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to promote dancing with the youngsters. I’m thrilled Gemma and I won the ballroom trophy and we’re now looking forward to competing in the UK closed championships on July 26 in Bournemouth.”
One of the festival judges, Richard Still, is second in Europe for 10-dances with his partner and fiancee Morgan Hemphill. He runs a dance school in Reading and will be opening a new one in Coventry this September.
He said: “It’s been a fabulous festival and a good new structure with a different approach. I think Andrzej brings something of the box to dance with his experience and energy; he brings a new mix to the table and it’s great for dancing. We need that breath of fresh new air.”
Mr Mialkowski added: “Dreams came true when I set up a dance school in England and now my latest dream has come true. I’ve always wanted to be a founder of a dance competition because I’m not competing any more myself. For me, it’s too late to compete and I don’t have time, but doing this competition has given me the adrenaline rush back.”