There was a definite taste of "Arts Fest" in the air on Thursday evening in the Junior Common Room, as the ACC Dance club held its dance competition, featuring four lecturers and ICU's Deputy President (Clubs and Societies), Lily Topham.
The event - compared by James Prouton, a Ballroom Teacher at Imperial College - started late due to the huge number of people who came to watch, with an audience of almost 150 people. These were the preliminary rounds of the competition, with each couple dancing two routines each. The purpose of the evening was to eliminate two couples, leaving three to go through to the final of the competition which will be held in The Great Hall on Friday, 20th February 2009 in conjunction with the Arts Fest Grand Finale (Arts Fest 2009 runs from 16th - 20th February).
The contestants who made it through to the final were Martin McCall of the Physics Department and Emma McCoy and Martin Liebeck, both from the Mathematics department. This left hopefuls Jennifer Siggers, of Bioengineering, and Lily Topham, of the Student Union, to walk away from the competition in the early stages.
The decision of which couples would make it to the final rested jointly in the hands of the judges and the audience, who had a chance to vote after each of the two rounds. The judging panel consisted of Simon Douglas, the captain of the Ballroom team at Imperial, Apiwat Weeranitikun, a latin dancer, and Dorothy Charlton, a former dance teacher at Imperial College who has won many dance competitions. Each dance was given marks out of 10 by each judge, meaning that a total of 30 marks was available for each dance.
Jennifer Siggers - partnered with BioEngineering student, and president of the Dance club, Maximilian Tay - was the first to dance, with a Jive in the first round. This seemed to be a bit of a shaky-performance, although it was evident that Dr Siggers knew her steps well. Mr Douglas commented that although Dr Siggers "looked scared", he "admired [her] enthusiasm". This dance acheived a score of 18 points from the judges. Dr Siggers danced the Tango in the second round, acheiving a considerably higher 23 points after mainly positive comments from the panel.
Lily Topham - partnered with final year Information Systems Engineering student, Leon Ooi - danced a very graceful Waltz in round one, described by Mr Weeranitikun as "phenomenal" and by Ms Charlton as "exceptional coreography". This acheived a score of 25 from the panel. Miss Topham's round two dance, the Cha Cha, also received a good reception from both the audience and the judging panel, attracting an impressive 24 points.
Emma McCoy - partnered with mathematics student Michael Wong - danced an exceptionally energetic Jive which had the audience clapping along. Mr Weeranitikun echoed the crowd's sentiments, saying that it was "enjoyable to watch", before the panel awarded the routine a score of 22. Dr McCoy then danced the Quickstep in round two, receiving criticism from Mr Weeranitikun for her bad frame and looking down at her feet, although Mr Prouton did point out that technically Dr McCoy's chassis was very well performed. Dr McCoy's Quickstep received 25 points.
Fourth to dance in the evening was Martin McCall - partnered with earth sciences student Marion Ferrat. His first dance was the Tango, a particularly dramatic dance captured well at the end of the dance when Dr McCall threw down his hat and carried his partner's limp body from the ballroom floor. Mr Douglas said that Dr McCall "really pulled it off", before the dance was scored at 24. In the second round, Dr McCall danced the Rumba - including a lift which Mr Douglas said "added at least one point" to his score, which ended up at 26 - the highest all evening.
Finally, it was time for Martin Liebeck - partnered with mathematics student Melissa Turcotte. Prof Liebeck appeared to have a great student following, with the majority of the crowd behind him. He performed an "unusual" Cha Cha, earning 15 points, and a Waltz, scoring 19 points and receiving the complement of having a "beautiful frame" from Mr Douglas.
By my calculations, this put Prof Liebeck at the bottom of the league table by far, with Miss Topham coming second in the table after judges votes. However, to the shock of some audience members, the "public vote" turned this around, placing Miss Topham in the bottom two and leaving the competition.
The night was, overall, a great success and extremely enjoyable. Not only were there many laughs to be had from the compere (and many more from the dancing) and the real feeling of a well-organised competition, but the audience was also treated to dances by the members of the Dance Club. If the final is going to be as exciting, then I would highly recommend it, whether you enjoy dancing or not.
The final will be held on Friday, 20th February. Arts Fest 2009 runs from 16th - 20th February.