Pro/Am Review of Vancouver Challenge Cup

As promised, here is a review of the competition I did this weekend. Please keep in mind that this review is based on my perceptions as a pro/am student.

The event:

Vancouver Challenge Cup (VCC) is in its 4th year and is held at the Hellenic Centre in Vancouver in January.  The comp includes events for pro/am, and am/am and includes a lot of fun events such as mixers, jack/jill events, a team match, and ends with a pretty amazing ‘Pro show’.  Overall, it is a very fun event with a great atmosphere, well attended with an active audience and provides a great experience.  It is organized by Michel Guimond, Clara Shih and David Marisigan, who have done a wonderful job improving on it each year.

The Good:

-VCC is one of the most affordable comps I have seen.  The pro/am entry prices are amongst the lowest in the country ($25 for a single dance) and you can purchase a competitor’s pass for $35 that gives you entrance to the full event.

-Pro/am students are given coupons for $3, $2 or $1 off the following year’s event for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in all events except scholarships (which had separate monetary prizes for placing).  Medals were given for top 3 placements in multi-dances and scholarships. In addition, each student was provided a voucher for a free photo print of them from the competition.

-In previous years, the floor has been slippery, but this year it was just right.

-Entries are done through o2cm, and the detailed results were available online immediately following the event.

-The organizers were very accommodating and helpful.  When an issue was identified, efforts were made to rectify it quickly.

-The competition ran on time with no unnecessary delays and included lots of general dancing to allow for warm-up and breaks between events.

-Water was available throughout the competition, both with and without lemon, and it was replenished constantly.

-The changing rooms were large and people were not tripping over each other trying to get changed.  There were mirrors in the change room and it was located next to the bathroom.

-The awards ceremonies were close after the events occurred and line-ups were done for multi-dances (top 3 only).  Awards were given in blocks by students for single dances.

-There was a bar available that also sold basic food throughout the comp.

-For the most part, the music was good–a mix of contemporary and classic dance tracks.

-Personal videotaping and photography was permitted throughout the event.

The ‘Not so Good’:

-While the prices for this comp are amazing, it does require a mandatory minimum of single dances to do scholarships.  The prizes awarded for scholarship were inconsistent, and not really explained.  2nd in a 3-person latin scholarship was $100, but 2nd in a 3-person smooth scholarship was $50.

-There is no separate ‘warm-up’ floor, so the options were to dance during general dancing, or to work in a corner of the building, which resulted in many couples crowding together behind the audience tables and making it difficult to move around.

-The pro/am heats were shorter than am/am heats.  Three times the paso doble played did not follow traditional phrasing and did not have highlights.  It was also cut at least 2 phrases before where the second highlight would have been.  Complaints were made after the 1-dance championships and it was fixed for the 5-dance, but the same issues was experienced again the following morning.

-The open am/am heats announced placements for everyone in the final, not just the top 3, and couple recognition was done during 5-dance open am/am events, but there was no recognition for the pro/am events.

-The comp gave awards for the top EIGHT pro/am TEACHERs, but only recognized the ONE top student. I do understand the desire and need to recognize teachers and encourage them for bringing their students, but the appreciation for pro/am students was a little lacking (see also my point just above about couple recognition).

-This comp does not appear to be invigilated for pro/am events and while it does have ‘closed’ events, students only have to do a minimum percentage of closed syllabus steps in the closed level (for example 50% bronze steps for closed bronze).  It is an interesting way of looking at the events, but I did see one student doing gold steps in a closed bronze/silver multi-dance.  It is my personal preference, but I feel that closed syllabus events should include only steps for that level.  There are open events for doing higher-level and/or open steps.

-This event has separate ‘divisions’ for the multi and scholarship events to allow instructors to dance with more than one student in the same event, and all events are open ages.  However, sometimes 3 different students/instructors get registered in 3 different divisions resulting in them all being uncontested instead of competing against each other.  Myself, I would like to see these redundancies eliminated, although it is possible that some pro/am students don’t want to compete against anyone else.

Overall, this really is a great event and it is arguably the biggest pro/am event in BC.  It has had a steady increase in pro/am participation each year and this year almost all multi and scholarship events had multiple couples competing together.  There were a lot of good points and the ‘not-so-good’ points are honestly me being a little picky and/or issues that I hope will be easily rectified for the future.

I would highly recommend this event to any pro/am student looking for something different.  Keep in mind that Vancouver in January is like April everywhere else in Canada–a great added ‘perk’!

Congratulations again to Michel, Clara, and David!




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