British Open Style Report

                Blackpool Dance Festival is a unique meeting point of couples, teachers and designers from all over the world. For a whole week – now with Pro-Am competitions even longer – people meet, socialize, discuss dancing and trends, reminisce about past competitions, make plans for the future, but above all – dance.

The competition in the Empress Ballroom takes place on so many levels – it is much more complex than what we actually see on the floor.

Couples competing have so many people standing behind them, supporting them with their knowledge and expertise: teachers, coaches, psychologists, stylists, hairdressers – some of them have physiotherapists, nutritionists and perhaps some other specialists.

The dance world is becoming an “industry”, where more and more specialized people take care of a certain segment of dancers’ needs, all aimed to produce a better quality of dancing, better image and better result.

People designing and producing dresses are in a special category, because their hard work is always hidden from the eyes of spectators, even couples. People are usually unaware of how much thinking, time and work goes into a good design.

This report is all about good successful, authentic design, why does it work and how to recognize it. 

In Latin, the dresses are becoming more and more complex, stylish and individual. Every year we can see some interesting, brave and original ideas coming out. Sadly, they are mostly overlooked, because they are such a rare phenomenon, although they work. However, in general, there is no prevailing trend going on and the theme of this year would be: “Whatever works, wear it.

So, what really works?

A good test to find that out would be a mirror:

If ladies stand in front of a mirror in their full Latin attire and still see themselves coming through, that is a good choice of a dress.

An even better choice would be: if a lady looks at herself in the mirror and sees an enhanced version of herself. A really good dress brings all the best features into the spotlight.

It doesn’t have to be an extravagant, or complicated design – it just needs to be a clever design – good enough to support and enhance the lady and her dancing.

But if a lady stands in front of a mirror and she disappears, with only a dress coming through, this is not a good choice – spectators and judges will see only the outfit on the floor, while the lady plays the role of dress hanger or model.

This last example represents quite a “trap” for the couples.

Flamboyant and extreme cuts, exaggerated volumes, colours and choice of materials call for immediate attention, “screaming” in the faces of spectators and judges.

Some couples love to choose them, because they represent a quick fix, an instant gratification, a fast-track ticket to the next round, maybe even to the final round…

And since this is the British Open, it is very tough to get to the next round.

A little trick that would help, if the couples could do a little mind experiment – putting themselves into the shoes of at least one of the top judges standing by the dance floor in the Empress Ballroom – judging, observing:

So many couples on the floor, who do I mark into the next round? So little time… Hmmm, I marked the ones that are sure to get into the next round, now I am moving to the ones that are a bit questionable – OK – I see a couple in the corner, hard to miss, the colourful lady, with all those feathers – cannot really see the lines of her body, skirt looks like it slows her down, don’t really see the rhythm in her body, feet fairly good, the boy is good, though… Let’s check the couple near them – nice, clear lines, good poise, feet, a bit restricted movement, but good for their level, good partnering, boy quite good – all in all, a readable situation, nice, effective image. I will mark the latter…” And so, the elimination goes on…


In Ballroom, the situation is much clearer, also because of the nature of Ballroom dances – everything is about technique, hold, character of movement, flow. There is no extra narrative incorporated in the choreographies, no drama, only pure movement and partnering.

This is why we very rarely see a “faux pas” with ballroom dresses (although, they do happen from time to time). Styles in Ballroom don’t change so dramatically and when they do, it is mostly because some new materials have been introduced. Their properties dictate the cuts and movement of the dresses.

This year, as every year, we saw some really wonderful, inspiring creations on the floor, with some of the trends going away from the skirts with metres and metres of crinoline – softer hemlines, that create softer, more flowing movement. In general, we saw fewer heavy floats on the hands of the ladies and sometimes fewer voluminous, more dynamic skirts…


In the end, the general idea that comes to mind would be:

The dresses need to be designed cleverly and beautifully enough, but not more than necessary. There is a fine line between an optimal design, which incorporates the character of the lady, level of dancing and her physique, and an exaggerated, oversaturated design, where a lady loses herself.

A good dress puts you in the spotlight in the right way, where judges and spectators can see an improved, more beautiful version of yourself and your dancing.

An oversaturated, overdesigned dress puts you in the spotlight in the wrong way… 

And to finish, a quote from Albert Einstein:

Any intelligent person can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move into opposite direction…”


All Photos: Tomasz Reindl

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