Long path to the Podium (Part 1)

Steve Wong is one half of the current Ceroc UK Advanced championship. Although he and Donna are now recognised as the excellent dancers they are, few people realise the hard work that any top dancer has to put in.

Over the coming weeks On8 is proud to publish a serialisation of Steve’s very personal account of the path that has taken him to ‘Champion’ status.

Author: Steve Wong. Steve Wong has been involved on the MJ circuit for many years, previoulsy based on the London circuit during which time he won the Ceroc Intermediates. After years in the ‘wliderness’ of Liverpool, he and his partner, Donna, are now UK Ceroc Advanced Champions. Steve and Donna are regulars at Blitz Chester club.

Many modern jivers are interested in competing. Are you up for it? Well, hopefully this will help you make up your mind.

In summer 2004 I was looking for a dance partner. I had been out of London for over a year (was now living in Liverpool) and was concerned that I could not find the calibre of dance partner that I found in London. The sort that used to frequent the club that spawned what became known as Amir’s Jango (a fusion of Tango and Modern Jive) and from which I usually sought dance partners.

I was looking all over the place. I was even talking to someone from Nottingham but at that time I was not a great driver and didn’t fancy doing the long drive. My frustration was that I wanted to move on from the Ceroc Intermediate level champs which I had previously won.

Then, one night in May 2004, at Nantwich Ceroc, I had the fortune to meet an attractive young lady who had not been dancing very long (about a year) but had a natural athleticism and desire to learn. Some time later, one of my friends watched us compete together in a fun blues competition run by Gus and said that we looked good together. We thus started to practice together.

Having won two Ceroc competitions, I was a little choosy in who I would compete with. Nevertheless, I was influenced by the Chinese philosophy that a hard working beginner could become better than a seasoned pro (watch king fu films and you will see what I mean). I thought that if Donna had the desire, then we would be able to overcome her (then) relative lack of dance experience by intensive practice. As we watched videos together and learnt moves, I was amazed how quickly she picked things up. She even showed me her own choreography. We also shared a deep interest in music.

During those humble beginnings we were privileged to be asked by Gus to compete at his “Best of the North ” competition at Northwich for dancers with a competitive record and it was Donna’s first taste of a more serious competition. We practised for that for a few months and although we did not get through our round, we did get to a level of product that was reasonable. I have seen footage of that performance and I still enjoy watching it, even though Donna thinks it was poor.

We practised consistently at our local clubs and even hired time at a local sports centre. Donna then put us forward for Strictly Dance Fever. In front of the trainer Kevin, we managed to get through the first round at the Cardiff auditions. Kevin seemed quite please with what we were doing and gave some positive feedback.

We had to stay in Cardiff and unfortunately both of us had an awful night’s sleep because of noisy neighbours. We were both feeling really unwell but still had to go to the BBC’s day of dance workshops, This is where we started to really learn about dance.

There were so many really, really good dancers from different styles. They picked things up so quickly and were so athletic. It was a humbling experience and we both got knocked out. Many people in our small class got through including the brilliantly talented Gemma.

The problem with Dance Fever was that it wrecked our practising regime. For Dance Fever, we had spent a lot of time making up a routine and now Blackpool, our first major UK Comp, was upon us. I drove up on the morning and we tried to rest before going to the venue.

As it turned out, we did not get onto the floor until our competitive heat (hint, don’t drive long distances on the day of the comp and make sure you get on the floor to practice!) and promptly got knocked out!

Editor’s Note: So end part 1 of Steve’s story. Part 2 should be published in the next two weeks. See how they bounce back form the disappointments to date.

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