After fielding Beginner and intermediate teams alongside advanced teams this competitive season, it seems as though this will continue going forward.
Essex Dance is currently in the middle of their competition season, which started on the 16th of February and will conclude on Derby Day.
So far, they have competed in three competitions in Portsmouth, Brighton, and Nottingham, where they had 5 squads competing in the categories of Ballet, Contemporary, Street, Jazz, and Contemporary.
However, there was one difference from the previous competitions, as Essex Dance had decided that they would include beginner and intermediate squads, a departure from them only fielding advanced squads.
Sophie, the VP of Dance and a ballet coach explained that the measure was meant to promote inclusivity, as “previously there was only 6 of us on stage against people with 14 or 15 [dancers]” and this decision “gave more people an opportunity to dance”.
This had the intended effect, as Sophie said that “I added 4 to my ballet” as a result of the decision.
The true test of this decision would be the competition, and this was reflected in the placements of the teams.
The first competition took place on the 26th of February at the University of Portsmouth and went as well as it could.
Sophie described how the first competition was “like a practice” but also “slightly nerve-racking” as it is the first, but the team had a good attitude and used the competition to “get us into how it works”, using the judges’ comments to improve their techniques and understand what was expected from them.
The team had to overcome those nerves, as well as having to modify the jazz dance last minute due to an absence, to perform successfully for a slightly intimidating panel, which had someone from the prominent West End musical Mamma Mia! on it.
“We get progressively better” Sophie explained, although they had set the bar high for that, as three teams managed to place, or be in the top 3, with the Essex team achieving 2nd in Street and Contemporary, and 3rd in Commercial.
What made this even more impressive was that the team had to get up at 5 am to depart from Essex, which meant that only “by the end of the journey people start to wake up a bit”.
The Success of the event had a noticeable effect on the team, with everyone finding their footing, “Portsmouth allows us to get hyped for Sussex”, where the next event was taking place.
On the 4th of March, the team went to Brighton to compete at the University of Sussex.
“We felt more confident… we definitely went in with ‘last week we did quite well and this week we can do even better.’”
The team had taken on the lessons of Portsmouth, as well as gained back the person from Jazz who was ill the week before, and were ready to give it their all.
The team proved their enthusiasm for competing by winning Best Team Spirit at Sussex, which meant that our dance team was louder and more supportive than any other team at the competition.
This is even more impressive because Essex is one of the smallest unis competing, as Essex tends to have around 36 people while other unis have closer to 100, which meant that the spirit the team showed was truly extraordinary.
But team spirit isn’t just about being loud, it’s about supporting each other and others, which helps the team as it “allows the team to bond”.
After a very sporting time at Sussex, it was time for a bigger challenge.
Go Hard or Go Home is a competition that brings University teams together to compete at Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. This is a bigger event than the previous two, with around 30 universities competing as opposed to the 7 or 8 competing in the other two.
It’s run by the University Dance Championship and is hosted in Nottingham in an auditorium of 5000 seats. The event takes place over 2 days and the judges are examiners in dance and performing arts.
While the event may have more time and attention than the other two, this didn’t mean the team had more time to practice. In fact, one of the notable things about it was that “we don’t have time to rehearse”.
Another thing that changed from the other two events was that the two levels that had been competing at the other two competitions, Intermediate and Advanced, were instead competing in Beginner and Intermediate respectively.
This was because Advanced was a category for the Universities which have dance degrees, and so the only people competing in Advanced were “Cambridge, Oxford, and people who had master’s in dance”, however, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Annika, the coach for the commercial team, explained that it means that “the level of competition matches our university level”.
And compete they did, as Essex ballet was the first dance on the stage, beginning a very successful event, with them winning a Best Beginner choreography award.
As for the other teams, Commercial and Contemporary placed 2nd in their competitions, and Beginner Jazz came first.
Jess, the coach for Beginner Jazz, was “really proud of the result” especially because this was their first year of coaching, with this achievement inspired them into going for more coaching opportunities in the future.
But a shock came to the team when it was revealed the marking system had been messed up, and no one knew if they had won or not, but luckily the team was able to retain its awards.
Overall, this competition season was great for Essex Dance, as the team was able to gain a great bond and get on well, with the new teams at other levels proving the success of the teams’ new innovations.
Aside from getting placements, the teams were able to pull off some notable achievements, like when the commercial team was able to place on a wildcard performance, which Annika explained as when “you can do anything”, as well as the Jazz teams’ resilience in the face of hectic choreography changes.