The Australian Same Sex Dancesport Championships 2018 Havana Nights had the Art Deco ballroom of St Kilda’s Town Hall basking in hypnotic music, moves, charm, swagger, and gusto. A well devised program of heats, interspersed with interstate and international guests, with high-energy open social sets, served up a night of non-stop movement, line, colour and dynamism. It was a flurry of art.
On display was artistic refinement, partnership, community – and dignity. Presented by Australia’s only dedicated LGBTIQ dance school, Kensington’s Dance Cats, this annual event in the Midsumma Festival calendar delights flying the flag for enjoyable social dancing as inclusive practice. Aside from the serious matter of technique and performance, there was a pop up bar, enthralled audience, and costumes to die for! Typical with these events- you find your favourites and watch them night long, across a range of dance styles and costumes. A night like this is an episode of dance wonder.
An engaging event hosted by the effervescent Damian Nicholas was not elitist as many formal competitions can be. With judges from some of our best productions, the team at the top supported and encouraged while much competition dance can been plagued by critical practice. This event nurtures professionalism while supporting participation. Guest performers included UK partners The Sugar Dandies, world champions in same sex dance, who brought elegant ease in their black tuxedos and tails and had the most perfect posture. Sweeping embraces turning 360 returned us to an era of polite finesse. Plus, they had beautiful smiles and loved showing to us!
Guest performers included hot hip hop duo Thari & Sabina who rocked us with sexy athleticism, tight black lycra, and heated touch. Tight women’s troupe Dance 101 brought funky swagger in lurid aqua leggings and platform runners. My personal highlight was the troupe of everyday South Australian women dressed in tight mini skirts as cops on a beat who raunched things up with their batons! Oh, to be arrested.
The competitors offered an education in genres. With 23 couples competing, the program had much to offer, and we saw a range of beautiful partners work the Latin, New Vogue, Waltz, Quickstep,Bunnyhop,Tango and Foxtrot. The elan and skill required to dance chest- to-chest, whilst locomoting, one moving forward, the other backward, quick head direction switches, and gliding as if on rollers, was something to marvel at. Anyone who thought dance was just mindless fun witnessed the concentration and skilled execution required in competition dance.
In addition to the technique on show was individuality and commitment, both to each other and to dance practice itself. Across a range of ages, body types, couples, and nationalities, we saw the results of countless hours of dedicated learning and rehearsal, not just for one person, but as a pair. The attention to detail and adept demonstration of each styles’ speciality showcased excellence at all times. Most moving to me was the variety of people dancing and how successful their moves as partners. Focus, style, aesthetic grace, and working together was ably visible in every move, holding our attention throughout.
An enthusiastic audience of family, friends, trainers, and interested fans lapped it up and were half as fun to watch as the main floor. It was great to see Rowena Allen, the Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, in attendance, strutting her stuff in the Progressive Evening 3-Step. An evening of graceful social style that is a feather in the community’s cap.
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.
Havana Nights: The Australian Same Sex Dancesport Championships 2018 showed 3 February at St Kilda Town Hall.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Midsumma Festival and Dance Cats.
Image credit: Various, Dance Cats, Mark of Dance Sport Photo.