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Across the Manx ballroom floor

Thursday 16 December in Entertainment

Images © BBC

With the Strictly Come Dancing Finals in sight, Islandlife.im shimmied to find out more about the local dance scene from Member of the Isle of Man Dance Teachers Association, and founder of Dynamic Dance Centre, Joanne Kelly.

How long have you been teaching ballroom dancing?

12 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long already! I qualified as a dance teacher in July 2009 when I was 7 months pregnant with my youngest, then started my own dance school in September 2010. It has been lovely to see children grow up through the age groups.

Tell me a little bit about the history of ballroom dancing on the IOM?

Ballroom has been going for many years in the Island. There are three types of ballroom dancing – Ballroom, Latin, and Sequence dancing.

Most of our competitions take place in the Villa Marina Royal Hall, for which we are extremely lucky to have as a lot of places we compete in across the UK are not half as nice. The trophies won at our local competitions contain a wealth of history - some of these trophies date back more than 70 years!

How does the judging system work in competitions?

As with Strictly, there is usually a panel of adjudicators but instead of couples dancing solo on the floor and being scored individually, there are multiple couples dancing at the same time. Dancers are trained from an early age about floorcraft and how to avoid collisions so it’s less chaotic than it might sound.

Each couple wears a number, and the judges mark down the couples they feel are the best dancers to go through to the next round, until a final 6 are selected and then ranked.

What do the judges look for when it comes to performances?

Each judge could be looking at different areas to make their decisions, as unlike other dance competitions where dancers are given individual scores for musicality, choreography, performance, expression etc. - this is not the case with ballroom.

There are so many aspects to the performance – technique, arm lines, expression, movement dynamics, musicality, chemistry, artistry – you need to bring your ‘A game’ for everything. I would say that technique is always the most important, with one of my most used expressions being ‘You can’t ice a cake unless it’s baked right’.

Who/what inspired you to start ballroom dancing?

Ballroom is in my blood on both sides of the family. I started around 3 years of age with my Auntie being my teacher and my brother and older cousins already dancing.

Seeing the older children doing more elaborate routines and wearing sparkles was certainly something that had me hooked. I always loved watching the older ones doing the Viennese Waltz and the Jive.

Latin or ballroom?

When I was younger it would have been Latin, hands down, as I loved the energy and party feel of each dance. But as I’ve gotten older, I have a deeper love for ballroom

Most challenging dance?

When I was competing, it was definitely the ballroom dances. If you think about it, there is always someone in your way every time you take a step. You are to move as one, so if someone gets a step wrong it’s difficult to cover it. I would say Foxtrot is the most difficult dance to learn and perform well.

What is most enjoyable about your job?

Where do I start? It’s the most amazing job ever. I am unbelievably lucky to have such caring children and parents. I love seeing the children progress and achieve things they thought they wouldn’t.

Now... let’s talk Strictly Come Dancing

Who do you think is going to win this year?

Rose & Giovanni for sure! Everyone has been so good this series and have given some great performances, but for me Rose just tops them all.

Favourite performance/routine of this year’s series?

There are a few that have stood out; the fluidity and togetherness of AJ’s Charleston, the intensity between John & Johannes in their rumba, and then there is just the trust and connection Rose & Giovanni have.

Is there an IOM Come Dancing version?

Yes! There have been a few over the past few years. Unfortunately Covid has caused some delays recently, but I believe there will be another event in 2022 in accordance with JT Productions.

Is it normal to see two same sex/male partners dance together?

Very much so. The number of girls outweighs the number of boys, so it is very common for girls to partner together. In the last few years I have seen some all-male partnerships too!

Favourite professional dancers?

My favourite female dancer is Oti. She just has so much personality. My favourite male dancer is much harder to pick, but I think it would have to be Giovanni….or Kai…..or Johannes.

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