A Weekend of Dancing in Blackpool

Last weekend was the annual Inter Varsity Dance Competition (IVDC) for the student circuit of Ballroom and Latin dance, and me and Liam were lucky enough to have the money and time to go together this year! It’s the biggest social of the year for Leeds University Union Dancesport Club, so it was super nice to be able to attend – especially since I’ve never been to Blackpool before! The actual competition is on the Saturday, but we make a weekend of it by heading down on Friday night (comps starts early in the morning!) and leaving on Sunday evening.

So, first things first: food! The only official meal planned on the outing was one at an Italian restaurant on the Sunday afternoon, and we also had breakfasts included at the hotel, so we had to cater for ourselves the rest of the time. An issue with this was the lack of fridge/microwaves in our hotel rooms, making it hard to take our own food and keep it fresh. But, we managed to make do. We made some sandwiches on granary bread with the new Quorn vegan chicken slices, avocado, and sweet chilli houmous! One each for the bus journey, and one each for competition day! These stayed fresh enough wrapped in tin foil and were super yummy as well as filling since they were full of protein, fibre, and good fats!

Liam also made a big pasta salad with broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, tomato, and red pepper sauce! This was for eating during the competition, since you are doing a lot of exercise and it’s a super long day, so you need to sustain yourself. This kept alright for the day, but the remainders on Sunday were a bit gross. Think I’d invest in taking an ice box or something next time! We also took lots of snacks like bananas, Nakd bars, Belvita biscuits, cookies, and oranges. Us vegans gotta come prepared!

We stayed at the Boomerang Hotel which was directly opposite Winter Gardens where the competition was held, which was super handy since the doors of the comp open bright and early at 8am. Our room was really nice – we were lucky enough to get a double rather than be assigned a dorm, since we were one of the few couples in the group. Although staying in a dorm with your friends is fun, you don’t really spend that much time in your room on this busy trip anyway, and it was also nice to come away and switch off a little in the peace and quiet.

The most important thing is that we had a kettle in our room! This is vital for me and Liam since we like our routine of decaff Earl Grey at night, and a proper Yorkshire brew in a morning. Breakfast was a selection of cereals and fruit and a menu for something cooked too. We ordered beans and toast… we didn’t receive a particularly generous portion, but it was something to start us off, at least. We slept through breakfast on the Sunday after a late, late night…

Something that I guess was a little disappointing about the weekend was Winter Gardens itself. Unfortunately, there was lots of scaffolding both outside and inside of the building which took away some of the wonder and the beauty. The main dance floor was pretty much ruined by all of this, and yeah, my stomach did sink a little bit. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Liam and I had to dance in a different ballroom anyway because we weren’t in the main categories (since I’m ex-student) and our dance floor was quite beautiful. I was also disappointed we didn’t get to dance on the main floor though. Most of the team wasn’t there to cheer us on, and we were only able to cheer on our team in the finals! It wasn’t really anybody’s fault, though, and it couldn’t be helped. It was just a bit of a shame, but never mind.

Queueing to get into the main hall took a little while, since so many students from so many different universities compete! It’s always kind of nice to see all the familiar faces, since the same people tend to compete all year round. It would be nice to have more opportunity to interact with the other universities at some point, cause I find it kinda weird that you see them and they see you, but you never introduce yourselves. Maybe some communication could be done between clubs to organise a joint night out with ice breakers and what not? Just a thought!

There was some ballroom bling on sale which is something I love about Ballroom and Latin dancing – the sparkle! I had to take some photos because I knew my mum would love to see all of it, and she did. I don’t know how much any of it cost because I didn’t have much time, and was also afraid to ask, but I’m guessing it’s not particularly cheap…

Competition time!

I always really enjoy watching the more advanced dancers, because it’s inspiring and gives you something in your mind to work towards. I was in awe at this competition, because the advanced dancers did 5 dances in a row: Waltz, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Tango, and Viennese Waltz… then in the afternoon: Cha, Jive, Pasodoble, Samba and Rumba. Where do they find the energy? Their stamina levels must be incredible, because I can barely make it through the Jive alone. That dance is a killer. Unfortunately, due to time and other factors, there was no option for dancers of me and Liam’s level to have a go at these other dances… and I love the samba! We still get to try out these routines at lessons, though, and there are opportunities to dance in the open rounds for these at different competitions.

Probably my favourite thing about Ballroom & Latin dancing… embarrassingly… is the costumes. Big, colourful, floaty, sparkly dresses! I absolutely adore it. I hope one day to have my own ballgown and Latin outfit, but it is gonna take a little bit of saving up…

We got knocked out of ballroom pretty early on, which was bittersweet. It was disappointing, because we knew we hadn’t danced our best – but it was pretty difficult in that small room. We were also in a category with dancers above our ability, since they cut out the middle level (intermediate) between novice (us) and advanced (the best). This meant that a few intermediate people were dancing amongst us novices, so it would have been pretty hard to compete. Anyway, I wasn’t too upset, because this had all happened by about 11am, and our first Latin round wasn’t until 4pm, so you know what that meant? NAPTIME. We headed back to the hotel for a lovely little snooze (gladly welcomed after the 6am start), before returning ready to Cha and Jive! we did make it through to semi-finals in Latin, which was nice and I was glad because we are generally stronger in Latin.

When we found a bit of time, we did a bit of wandering around the building and found this gorgeous room to dance in with all twinkly lights in the ceiling. I would love to attend a party at a place like this, although it did somewhat remind me of the ballroom in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining.

To Liam’s delight, there was also a record sale going on in the building. Entrance was £2 each, but a man saw us peeking in and invited us in for free, since he could see we were partaking in the dance competition. We left with an Elvis Christmas album, and a Beastie Boys EP that includes No Sleep til Brooklyn and Fight For Your Right!

Lots of Leeds University students placed, which is always a lovely end to a long competition day! The ex-student novice champions for both Latin and Ballroom were our good friends Karina and Ariel who dance for Leeds University, too, so that was a fantastic finish for all of us! The best part of dancing in this club is cheering on all of your friends who you practice with week in and week out and witnesses their improvements and success! When all is said and done, it’s time for some group pictures with the team: silly faces and smiles! Don’t we look like a bag of cheesy wotsits? That’s SHOWBIZ! #spraytans

A lovely touch organised by the committee was that everybody received a t-shirt with a nickname chosen for them and written on the back. What could mine be, I wondered… vegan queen? Nope! CARNIVORE. All in good fun, I had to laugh, and anyways, of course I’m a carnivore. Look at these canines! Liam’s t-shirt said Prince which was absolutely perfect for him and I think he was pretty pleased too.

I was extremely excited for the night out that followed, mostly because it was a fantastic opportunity to bring out the silver sequin flared trousers (Topshop)! Since the idea is that we wear our nickname t shirts, I wanted to make sure I still had a bit of glitz and glamour, although I’m not sure how glamorous you can be in an old battered pair of Nike trainers… lots of us customised our tees a little, I made mine into a little off-the-shoulder number, and then we wrote on each others tees with Sharpies! Then, onto Revs! The survivors went onto Flamingo club, but most of us slinked off to McDonald’s and then into our cosy beds at around 3am. Liam and I got the veggie burgers (of course) minus the mayo making them vegan, with a large fries and fizzy drink to go! I always add sweet chilli to my McDonald’s veggie burger, Liam decided to add ketchup to his… whatever floats your vegan boat, I guess.

The next day, after dragging ourselves up and out of bed in time for checkout at 10am, the team split into 2. Most people went to the Tower Ballroom for a few hours, others made the journey to Pleasure Beach. Although it was bright and sunny, the wind was cold and bitter, so we were pretty pleased that we had chosen the indoor option. Plus, I’m not sure a rollercoaster is my ideal place to be after a night on the vino and voddy…

The Tower Ballroom definitely made up for the disappointment of Winter Gardens. It was absolutely stunning inside, with the beautifully painted ceilings, huge dancefloor, balcony seating, and the organ on the stage. It was lovely to see lots of people take to the floor to dance along to the live numbers being played on the organ, and you could see that it brought together lots of different people, young and old. After a couple of hours here, we all headed out for a walk down the road and along the pier.

Dream garden furniture…

Thanks for the sunnies and the pic, Emilia!

Then, onto the moment I had been waiting for… FOOD! Liam and I are the only vegans of the group, and the restaurant didn’t have a vegan menu, but they were extremely courteous and told us an idea of what they could make vegan from the main menu. Liam ordered a tomato risotto and I went for a pizza which included my second favourite topping (after pineapple): olives! Delicious, and very much needed, too.

There was lots of artwork along one of the walls outside Winter Gardens facing our Hotel, so I made sure to take the chance to get a few snaps before we left as well. I especially love this one of the woman with yellow eyes and dark eyebrows, I kinda wanna cut out that piece of wall and bring it home to stick on my own wall. I know that’s not how this works but… let’s pretend that’s how this works.

At 5pm, with full bellies and sleepy heads, it was time to say goodbye to Blackpool and pack our bags onto the bus and head back to our beloved city of Leeds. The trip only takes about 2 hours, so it’s not too long of a journey… and we slept throught most of it, anyway.

Overall, I really enjoyed visiting Blackpool for the first time and I’m really glad I got to dance at IVDC 2018. If I had more time, I would be interested to explore a bit more of the vegan scene in Blackpool – although I am aware it is extremely scarce. I don’t know if Liam and I will still be dancing with Leeds next year, but if we are… we will definitely be coming back!

Thank you so much to the club committee for all the hard work and dedication that goes into keeping our society running and making events like this one happen!

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