After nearly two years of the absence of competitive dancing in the UK, we returned to the dancefloor with the 2nd UK Equality Open (following it’s hugely successful debut in Bournemouth in 2019 just before the world went into lockdown). This year the UKEO went to Manchester, where it should have been held back in November 2020 with participants from all over the UK, as well as coming from as far afield as Germany and Finland.

Part of taking the UKEO around the country provides the opportunity to encourage new dancers to the floor as well as raise the profile of competitive equality dancing in areas where it’s currently underrepresented. Part of that journey allows it to engage new adjudicators to the competition, getting further support from teachers and other dance sport professionals from around the country. This year the UKEOwelcomed Jannine Davies, from NuSteps Dance Studio in Nottingham, and coach to the University of Leicester Ballroom & Latin Society to the adjudicating panel. Janninetells us, “This was my first experience of judging on the equality dance circuit and what a wonderful experience it was- from the moment I walked in to the room I was made to feel so welcome and at ease.  As the couples started to come in,the buzz mounted and you could sense the excitement from all the couples wanting to get back out on the competition floor”. Davies goes on to share “There was also true, and genuine support for one another”. This friendly atmosphere is something the equality dance scene prides itself in and it isfantastic to hear that from someone completely new to the circuit. Jannine summarises her experience, “The biggest memory I will take from the day is of pure love and passion for dance and for me, that is the best feeling in the world!Kristian Vellejus who was also one of our adjudicators who came all the way from Denmark and someone who regularlyappears on the equality dance scene shares similar sentimentswith us, “The dancers and audiences always make a special atmosphere and appearance that can’t be found in any other dancing competition, The UKEO is no exception in that either”.

The UKEO was also pleased to welcome two new dance partnerships from Finland this year – Maarit Kormano & OutiSalmela and Carolina Kaski & Sandra Kuisma. They were keen to share their experience, with one couple competing for the very first time, “We were wonderfully received, the atmosphere at the competition was open, warm and cheerful throughout the event. Everyone seems to be a family, and very friendly, encouraging and cheering for each other throughout.” Kormano goes onto to say “For us, this is the very reason why we go to compete so far away”. Kormano and Salmela compete on the regular dance circuit in Finland and go on to share what they feel is the main difference for them when attending an equality dance competition “compared to the so-called ‘traditional’ competitive dance circuit, we feel that the multiple rounds on the floor, made possible by the same sex dance rules, are a more meaningful, and much better way for dancers to compete”. She touched my heart by telling me “it must also be said that as the host of the event you werein a class of your own – Super!” For any competition promoter all you ever want to do is provide another fun and enjoyable dance experience for everyone. Hearing first-hand how it touches so many lives makes it all even more worth it.

When it comes to reflecting on this year’s event, what was most important was offering the opportunity for dancers to return to the dance floor after such a long time. It was feared we may have lost our community during the pandemic and that it would be hard to rebuild. However, international attendance at the UKEO 2021 just goes to show, we’re coming back bigger and better, and stronger than ever and we look forward to welcoming everyone to the UK again for the Pink Jukebox Trophy in London on Saturday 19th February 2022.

The next UK Equality Open is scheduled to be in Brighton for 2022, another great opportunity to see equality dancing at its best! For more information visit www.equalitydance.co.uk

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