MY SCENE | Strictly ballroom at every turn

It’s all about impressing the judges, teen dance champions Jesse Challis and Stephanie Coghill tell BEN ROBSON. And tripping the light fantastic.

IN the cold and honey-coloured brick hall there’s a touch of old-fashioned glamour tonight.

There’s a flash of shining black shoes and an immaculate white bow tie, a twirl of pink and a dazzling necklace.

It’s elegance and it’s ballroom.

Jesse Challis, 15, and Stephanie Coghill, 14, not only look the part but have just become two of the Border’s most promising ballroom dancers.

Jesse, from Albury, and Stephanie, from Rutherglen, have just recently returned from the 2014 National Capital Dancesport Championships in Canberra as national champions.

The pair won the title after coming first in the Junior C Grade New Vogue dance.

Over the weekend of ballroom dancing, Jesse and Stephanie had a first and a fourth in the New Vogue, a second and a fourth in the Standard/ Modern, and a fourth and a seventh in the Latin-style dances.

“These two have the potential to go all the way,” coach from Albury Dancetime studio Sheree Coulthard says.

“Not just in this country but they have the potential to to go all the way overseas as well.”

The championships were held at the Australian Institute of Sport with competitors from across Australian as well as New Zealand, Iceland and China. 

“It’s one of the elite competitions,” Sheree says.

“There are only four national state championships and Jesse and Stephanie will do them all this year.

“Because Jesse’s 15 he’s now at that elite level in his age group so we’re just letting everyone know where Albury is now.”

Jesse and Stephanie have been dancing together since March 2013.

“These two have the potential to go all the way..." - Sheree Coulthard, Albury Dancetime Studio.

Dancing runs in the family, with Jesse’s mum, Annette, also competing on the same weekend with her dance partner, Grant Ward from Corryong.

The pair finished second in the Masters I B Grade Latin and fourth in the Masters I B Grade New Vogue.

Jesse and Stephanie are now heading into one of the busiest time of the year, with competitions taking up many weekends starting with the Australian Dancing Society’s Shepparton DanceSport Competition today.

Sheree says that the dancers have to do everything right to impress the judges.

“They’re looking at everything, from the way they dance to the way they look,” Sheree says.

“In the big competitions there are 13 adjudicators and they’re not all from Australia.

“So while we try and get the exposure as much as possible you can’t possible be known by half of the panel at competitions, so you have to win them over on the day.”

For the men, it’s a formal lounge suit when it comes to traditional ballroom dance.

“And it’s quality, Jesse’s gear is made by the best who make it,” Sheree says.

“And it’s the same with Stephanie.

“Then the Latin gear is a lot freer and skimpier.

“But you wouldn’t go out in home stuff and expect to be competitive — it doesn’t matter what the sport, you wouldn’t borrow a tennis racquet and hope to be competitive.”

How long have you been dancing?

Jesse Challis: Since I was about two-and-a-half.

Stephanie Coghill: I’ve been dancing since I was seven years old, but only started ballroom two years ago.

You must enjoy dancing?

JC: It’s all right, it’s an interesting pastime.

SC: I enjoy all kinds of dancing. I thought it would be fun to try something new so I started ballroom — it’s different but it’s enjoyable. It’s different having a partner, in theatrical dance you’re by yourself, but I enjoy it because there are different dances and different styles.

What do your mates think?

JC: They support me. It’s just another sport and they say if you enjoy it, do it.

Is the gear comfortable?

JC: No, especially when you’ve got to take it all off and the studs go everywhere.

What were the championships like?

JC: They were challenging. But I enjoy competitions, you can really test yourself.

SC: It was special to win.

Do you come from a dancing family?

SC: Not really. Our grandparents were dancers but that’s just about it.

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