Dancing duo go out on a high

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Dancing Duo Graciously Retire

A partnership between ballroom-dancing champions is to end on a note of success, as third-years Phil Rawcliffe and Hannah Roberts retire from competitive dance after more than a decade of dancing together in order to concentrate on their studies.

They retire just weeks after having won both the British Amateur Classical Sequence and the Modern Sequence Championships, which took place at the Blackpool Winter Gardens over four days in October.

Speaking of their recent successes, and the decisions made regarding their futures, Cartmel student Roberts said, “We both felt like now was the best time to finish. We’ve been together for ten years and have reached the top in both the modern and the classical field and so it seemed appropriate to go out on a high.”

The duo have trained and competed together ever since they were partnered with one another at their local dance school, Sanderson’s, in Burnley. They have formed a close bond of friendship throughout their sporting endeavours and regard each other with sibling-like affection. Roberts said of their partnership, “It will be strange not to be dancing together all the time but as we are both here at Lancaster we will still see each other and spend time together.”

Though both are members of the University’s Ballroom Society, Roberts is the more active member; Rawcliffe explained that he had taken advantage of the opportunities available at university to become involved with new sports with which he was previously unfamiliar but had always held a wish to try. He played Rugby League for two years, and this year has also taken up rowing alongside his academic and ballroom commitments.

The amount of training necessary to maintain such a high standard has, at times, been difficult to fit in around studies and the two students’ social lives. Rawcliffe said that, whilst at school, the pair had to undertake eight hours of training per week. Since coming to Lancaster it had become much more difficult to keep up the same intensity of practise on top of academic and extra-curricular pursuits that come with being an undergraduate. Instead, they train according to what their studies permit, and then undertake intensive training during the holidays when they are back home or in preparation for competitions. “There have been times when it has been quite close to the wire, and we’ve not felt completely confident going into competitions because we just haven’t had the time to train,” Rawcliffe said.

“Our studies are the main reason why we’ve made this decision now. They have to come first.”

With Roberts in her third and final year of a Psychology degree, and Rawcliffe undertaking his third year of a four-year Master’s in Nuclear Engineering, the workload is understandably mounting, as Rawcliffe explained: “Hannah has her dissertation to do, and I have a project to do both this year and next year, too.”

Rawcliffe explained how the process of progressing in competitive dancing can reach a natural conclusion. Having won all the titles to which they had aspired, and having won some titles twice (they are also the 2011 British Amateur Modern Sequence Champions and the U.21 British Amateur Classical Sequence Champions of 2010), the pair felt that it would be wrong of them to keep competing simply for the sake of it. Rather, they have decided to step aside and allow upcoming talent to flourish as they have done. As Rawcliffe indicated, “Dancing is very much the type of sport where you want to encourage more and more people to become involved.”

For the remainder of this academic year, whilst the two are together at Lancaster, they will continue to take part in the major university championships, such as the 2013 Roses tournament between Lancaster and York and February’s Northern Universities’ Dance Competition, hosted by the Inter-Varsity Dance Association (IVDA).

As for the future: both expressed a keen wish to carry on dancing in some capacity, though they are keeping their options open as to whether they will pursue it professionally. Roberts emphasised her enthusiasm for the sheer enjoyment of dancing as a sport, saying, “I don’t think I could deal with it not being in my life somehow as it’s always been a huge part of it.”

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