Dancing with the world’s best at Blackpool

On the winner’s dias, with John Thomas and Jody Rollason (right).

England’s Blackpool Dance Festival is the world’s first and most famous international annual ballroom competition and in May this year 1509 couples from 54 countries took part.

The festival is held at the town’s stunning Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens entertainment complex.

Among the international competitors were John Thomas, of Laravale, and his dancing partner and coach Jody Rollason, of Brisbane.

Out of the 15 events they contested, they distinguished themselves by winning the British Championship for Pro/Am Ballroom Male Age 51-60, as well as 14 additional gold or silver medals. Simply put, pro/am is an event that consists of a professional dancer partnering an amateur dancer. In this case, Jody was the professional dancer and John the amateur.

John took up ballroom dancing 25 years ago in his thirties.

“I’d reached a time in life when I wanted to do something different. To that point I’d only engaged in social dancing at the Tamrookum Hall, and I saw ballroom dancing as a challenge. In fact, it offers many challenges and you have to be adaptable,” he says.

He names fitness, choreography, timing, teamwork and musicality as the key areas of focus for success in ballroom dancing.

In addition to their recent international success, John and Jody are currently the top ranked couple in Australia for Professional/Amateur Masters 1 New Vogue dancing. New Vogue is an increasingly popular Australian form of sequence dancing that originated in the 1930s.

Is he surprised by his success?

“Yes I am. It was a wonderful result and exceeded my expectations, but I have put in a big effort over the years,” he says.

“One thing I have learnt is that if you have a passion for something and be prepared to put in the work to give it your best shot, you may be surprised where it takes you.”

John, who grew up on dairy farms at Laravale and Knapp Creek, works as a property valuer with the Department of Resources and these days divides his time between Toowoomba and his Laravale grazing property.

Following his Blackpool success, John is now weighing up future international competition options.

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