“You’re probably all wondering why I’m here.” smiled nine times Professional World Latin Dance Champion, Carmen Vincelj on arriving at the rather anonymous Kingwood dining hall somewhere in deepest Surrey. I think it’s fair to say a location not designed to host such a renowned title holder. So yes, I suppose you could say we were wondering why she’d shown up.
Royal Holloway has a thriving Ballroom and Latin American Dance society, more commonly known as BALADS. The society was lucky enough to gain complimentary tickets to former champions Bryan Watson and Carmen’s prestigious London Ball back in October and BALADS has been Carmen crazy ever since. Enthusiastic president, Dasha Nikitina wasted no time in contacting many professional dancers, enquiring whether they would be interested in teaching our society for a lesson, (of course for a student friendly price) but never did we expect the response we got …
“One of the things Bryan wanted as a present for his 40th birthday last year was for us to give something back to the community, so when I got your email I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to help you with your dancing.” Carmen explained on arrival. She began the master class with some valuable technique, focussing on where the placement of our weight should be when we dance and how we should use our spine. She demonstrated her remarks with some Rumba walks, “I’m a little rusty.” She confessed, modestly. However from her effortless, fluid movements I found this very hard to believe!
Technique explained, we got to have a go ourselves. Carmen was adamant on stressing the importance of direction when we danced, so much so she made the boys and girls practice their steps separately, then dance in front of each other – not in hold, and then finally in hold … So much for Rumba being “the dance of love” then.
“I want to finish our lesson with some Jive.” She announced. A titter of excitement filled the room – always a popular choice! Half an hour and lots of kicking and flicking later, I have never seen my Jive transformed in such a short space of time, as Carmen carefully explained where the motivation for every kick should come from, explaining that the Jive is a “body dance” and not a “leg dance” as a lot of us had thought – valuable stuff when competing. Exhausted and hot despite the November snow still settled outside, the lesson was inevitably over.
Once Carmen left the grounds of the university, the excitable hysteria from BALADS members was still palpable while we reflected on what we had just been lucky enough to experience – all of whom appreciating what a respected name Carmen Vincelj is in the dance industry. It was this energy that we took to our upcoming competition in Nottingham the very next day – where BALADS achieved our best results to date, winning all four Beginner disciplines.