Well, Australia's biggest Balboa Swing workshop and competition is over for another year. Now in its 10th year, Balboa on the River is still going strong in Brisbane!
This was the the 8th time that I have attended BotR, the 6th time that Emma Hadfield and I competed together in the Australian Balboa championship, and the first time that we won 1st place!
I actually took my first Balboa basic steps on the side of the dance floor at the BotR 2008 Saturday night dance in the very swanky Irish Club (with Jema Young's patient help. Thanks Jem! :)). I have many memories and a lot of dance-water under the bridge since then.
For me, Balboa did not come naturally. I think it took me about 6 months before I could even dance a whole song without breaking the dance and having to stop, reset, and count myself in again. The first time I competed, in 2010[*], I shudder to think what my Balboa looked and felt like. Apologies and thanks to all of the follows who had the patience and fortitude to dance with me in those days. Especially Emma Hadfield, who has always been a willing warrior under the combat conditions of dancing with me on a crowded (or empty!) dance floor. I had a total lack of flow and a jagged bounce from the ankles rather than absorbing through the knees. I looked like the Energizer Bunny trying to do the Charleston.**
See for yourself:
I plugged away at it every week in classes and social dancing to the wonderful music of local gypsy jazz great, Ewan Mackenzie. Emma and I showed up to Balboa on the River and competed in the ABC again in 2011. You can see in the video that another year's worth of dancing did make a difference, but not enough to make the other competitors nervous. This was the year that I forgot we had already done the one minute of Pure Balboa in the first all-skate, so I went ahead and danced my whole first spotlight in close embrace. In hindsight I think this was the better of the two spotlights anyway, lol.
Then in 2012 we had applied and were accepted to attend a very special workshop called The Balboa Experiment in the USA. Later that year we won 3rd place in the ABC! It's funny how the mind works, but thinking back, I felt more elated about getting that 3rd place than anything I have won since. I couldn't get the smile off my face!
The following year (2013) we didn't make the cut for The Balboa Experiment and we didn't place in the ABC.
Not to be discouraged, in 2014 we were again accepted to The Experiment and, with further upgrades to our quality of movement, we took 2nd place in the ABC later that year.
This year (2015) was our third time at The Balboa Experiment and this year, on our 6th go at it, we finally won the championship at Balboa on the River! You would probably not be mistaken for thinking there's a correlation there somewhere. The Balboa Experiment has been instrumental in creating the environment we needed to take our dancing to the next level.
Here is a play list of the entire competition from start to finish. It was filmed at 720p on my phone by my brother-in-dance, Nick Grant, but the lighting was not great so I added a lot of fill light in YouTube to be able to see what people's feet are doing. This has the unfortunate side effect of messing up the image somewhat...
The final placings were:
1st - Robert Edwards & Emma Hadfield (Brisbane)
2nd - Max & Catherine Pogonowski (Sydney)
3rd - Steve Murphy & Leigh Davis (Brisbane)
Possibly the more exciting thing for me this year was that I also won the Jack & Jill competition. That's where you get randomly partnered with several different people who you may or may not have ever danced with before! The way the J&J is run in Brisbane is that each competitor is judged individually in the final rather than being judged as a couple. In the past I've danced a lot better with Emma than with other people and my results in J&J comps have reflected that. So it was very gratifying to win against 16 other leaders while dancing with several followers from out of town. Here is a playlist of the final, but it only has spotlights of me and the warm-up all-skate.
The final placings for the Jack & Jill were:
1st place lead - Robert Edwards (Brisbane)
1st place follow - Kathryn Atkinson (Melbourne)
2nd place lead - Steve Murphy (Brisbane)
2nd place follow - Catherine Pogonowski (Sydney)
3rd place lead - Max Pogonowski (Sydney)
3rd place follow - Leigh Davis (Brisbane)
I think I must be getting better at dancing differently with each follower to play to their strengths. In the past I would have just tried to lead my best killer combos, regardless of who I was dancing with. That's obviously going to be an ugly hit and miss experience. I have Peter Flahiff to thank for teaching me to pay more attention to my follower and take care of them first. Thanks Peter.
While I am in a thanking people mode, I would like to thank in particular my wonderful partner, Emma Hadfield, for being one full half of our dynamic duo and for constantly being by my side through thick and thin. What a gal 😀
I would also like to thank the organisers of Balboa on the River over the years. Without all of you, Balboa in Brisbane wouldn't be what it is.
And I would like to thank all of the Balboa teachers who have contributed their time and knowledge to help us become the dancers we are thus far on this strange journey. In rough chronological order they are:- Mark Paroz, Vicki Lawrance, Joel Gilmore, Jenny Jean, Kellie Hazard, Wes Barris, Tia Baker, Joel Plys, Sophie Yesberg, Sylvia Sykes, Mickey Fortanasce, Kelly Arsenault, Heidi Salerno, Steve Garrett, Bernard Cavasa, Anne-Helene Bargain Cavasa, Nick Williams, Jacob Wigger, Valerie Salstrom, Laura Keat, Jeremy Otth, David Rehm, Bobby White, Kate Hedin, Corey Manke, Susan Manke, Shani B, Jennifer Barnett, Javier Skeets Johnson, Mike Guzzo, Jennifer J Lee, David Lee, Chelsea Bromstad Lee, Adam Speen, Nelle Cherry, Susana Bernal Sanchez, Gontran Galinier, Joshua McLaughlin, Emily Ernst, Andreas Olsson, Teni Lopez-Cardenas, and Peter Flahiff.
[*] - Interestingly that was the year that a couple danced the warm-up all-skate while holding their baby.
** - At that point in time I had also been dancing Lindy Hop for 2 years, 4 months and 1930's Charleston was my favourite thing in the entire world. So my bouncy Balboa was hardly surprising.