Goldsmiths students came third at a national Afro-Latin Dance festival in Birmingham over the weekend, organised by the University of Birmingham’s Dance Club Latino, beating salsa and bachata dancers from all over the UK.
Goldsmiths was represented by two couples from the university’s dance society, president Gregory Burton with partner Naomi Michaelidou, and vice-president Lulu Molinares, and partner Eddie Okutu.
The Goldsmiths team was the smallest group competing. Their performance was nearly called off, as one of the dancers overslept and missed the morning train. The whole squad made it to the venue eventually just in time to practise before the event, where Goldsmiths were the opening performance in the improvers’ category.
Naomi said: “I think it was the best performance we have done so far. It was quite frustrating that every week we had someone dropping out of the preparation, and even today in the morning we were not quite sure whether we will have one or two couples. So I am glad that eventually we did so well. ”
She is currently in her first year at Goldsmiths studying Music. Naomi, 19, has only been dancing salsa since September, and has put a lot of effort and time into catching up with her more experienced teammates.
The dance teacher, who uses the professional name Sammy Salsa, helped prepare the Goldsmiths’ team for the competition, could not come to witness his students’ success. However, he supported them with motivational messages.
“It’s been a great journey, and it has been a pleasure meeting such an amazing bunch and watching you grow,” he wrote. “ You will always be winners in my eyes.”. He promised to enter the dancers in another show within the next three months.
When the Goldsmiths’ team started preparing for the competition, there were many more students eager to take part. However, the number dropped down to two couples, as the practice required a huge amount of time and dedication. According to Lulu, there was a certain advantage in having a small team however, as it was easier to choose costumes.
“Since last year we’ve been wanting to compete here. At that time they did not let us compete, as there were only two of us. We could register for the couples’ competition on the day, but that was not the same. So out of frustration we decided that next year we would recruit more people, come here and smash it” said Lulu, who is in her second year studying Art. They spent weeks looking for costumes, she added.
“We wanted to look different, and in the end we found what we were happy with. But they were kind of out of our budgets, so in the end we were glad that we ended up competing in two couples.”
The winners of this year’s competition were from Imperial College. Their performance impressed the judges with handstands and other advanced acrobatic elements. Second place was awarded to the University of Kent. Teams from universities around the UK took part, including Warwick, Bath, and Loughborough.
Numerous dance classes took place alongside the competition, including Kizomba, Argentinian tango, burlesque, jive and chachacha. The sessions were taught by highly trained teachers and professional performers from all over the UK. More than 600 dancers of varying levels and styles attended the event. Once the competition was over, everyone flocked into the main hall for the Latin dance ball, which lasted until 3 a.m.