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Variety, style and dance

DanceSport may sound like a contradiction in terms (surely dance is an art, not a sport?) but it’s actually the official name for something with which you’re very familiar. You know exactly what DanceSport is; you’ve probably seen it on TV more than once (especially if you’re a devotee of the BBC) and you’d have no trouble identifying many of the actual numbers… Because this is simply a more formal name for what we, the left-footed public, call Ballroom Dancing. And it’s coming to Cyprus in a big way…

With an expected tally of 300 competing couples from over 18 countries, the DanceSport Cyprus Open 2016 will see dancers from all over the world flying in to try their luck – and possibly improve their World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) ranking – in the first event of its kind in Cyprus. Hosted by Cyprus DanceSport, and taking place under the auspices of first lady Andry Anastasiades, it’s the only International WDSF DanceSport Competition to ever be held on the island; and the first, hopes organiser Margarita Dobrobobova, of many.

feature dancesport“DanceSport is such a beautiful discipline, and it encompasses such variety and style, both for those who are watching and those who compete,” she enthuses. “There’s the waltz, the Vienna waltz, the tango, the foxtrot and the quickstep (known as the Standard category), along with the paso doble, the jive, the cha cha cha, the samba and the rhumba, which belong to the Latin section,” she explains. “And then within these two there are lots of other categories, depending on age and accomplishment. DanceSport is just chock full of different dances and excitement,” explains Margarita. “It’s such a passionate discipline, so full of emotion and beauty that in fact we, the public, often forget how much work goes into the final performance…”

Of course, anyone who’s watched Strictly Come Dancing knows the minor celebrities struggle to perfect just one short dance, despite their week’s worth of rehearsals. But to reach the top of your game (and a coveted WDSF ranking) in DanceSport, takes a lifetime of dedication.

“It takes years of training to be able to compete at an international level,” Margarita explains. “You’re looking at non-stop rehearsals, maybe from the age of seven or eight, along with constant lessons and classes, endless workouts to build stamina, and pure, unadulterated dedication to the discipline… Plus you have to have an innate talent: coordination and a feel for music, physical strength and the ability to tolerate intense mental pressure. What we, the audience, see, is a flawless routine, but it’s easy to forget how much work goes into perfecting just one dance…”

On top of that, the competitions themselves are no walkover. Once a couple – DanceSport is always a male/female pairing, Margarita clarifies – have achieved the required standard to enter a tournament, there are still hours of work to go. Over the two days of the World DanceSport Federation recognised competition in Cyprus, couples may find themselves on the floor for nearly 10 hours straight: “The competition starts at 10 in the morning and usually ends with the final at about eight or nine at night, and you’re under incredible physical and mental pressure during that time. Every move will be scrutinised by the judges, a number of whom will be internationally accredited WDSF adjudicators, and points given at the end of each round. If you’re exceptional,” adds Margarita, “you can progress to the finals – by which point you’ll have been on your feet for most of the day!”

Of course, in reality, very few of the couples who begin in the first round will make it to the end of the day: “A pair who have a recognised ranking are able to skip the first few sections of the competition and start from about round five; these are couples who are already rated,” Margarita clarifies, “and you’d be surprised how many of them there are on the island!”

Cyprus, it transpires, is a secret hotbed of ballroom dancing: “There are actually a great number of very accomplished local athletes competing in DanceSport,” says Margarita, “and lots of rising stars coming out of the innumerable dance schools all over the island. Several Cypriot couples are ranked internationally, and attend competitions all over the world” – China, Australia, and Finland to name just a few of the more recent locations – “and Ekaterina Isakovich and Daniil Ulanov, while originally Russian, make their home on the island and compete for Cyprus in world tournaments. They’re in the top 50 ranked worldwide, took eighth place at the recent Grand Slam Competition 2016, and will be competing here at the Cyprus Open.”

A celebration of dancing as well as an official competition, the DanceSport Cyprus Open is a not for profit venture in “a beautiful location that’s perfect for a beautiful discipline.” To this end, organisers are not only handing out free tickets to many of the island’s rising stars – “this is about inspiring children to participate and develop a love of the sport, which is such an important aspect of the event,” Margarita explains – but are also encouraging a number of dance schools from across the island to showcase their talent during breaks in the competition, allowing local aficionados the chance to shine while keeping the audience entertainment factor at a maximum.

“The Grand Opening Ceremony will also feature world champion DanceSport couple Dmitry Zharkov and his partner Olga Kulikova who will be flying in especially to perform an exhibition dance,” says Margarita, “as well as the talents of world-renowned pianist J Khmara and local band Minus One. All in all,” she concludes, “we’re set for two days of spectacular entertainment, showcasing the beauty, the passion and the unrivalled emotion of DanceSport… or ballroom dancing, as you British call it!” Either way, we’re in for a treat!
The DanceSport Cyprus Open 2016
At the Spyrou Kyprianou on October 8 and 9. Tickets cost €10 per day, and are available online, as well as from any Cineplex and at the door on the day. Part of the proceeds will go to two local charities: One Wish, One Dream and the Sirius Dog Sanctuary

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