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Word on the street is gold

Scotland's only team at an international dance contest in Barcelona waltzed off with the hip hop prize

WHEN THOUSANDS of dancers from around the world descended on Girona, near Barcelona for the International Dance Grand Prix in early April, there was little room to practise. This didn't deter Scotland's only entrants - students from the HND course at Anniesland College in Glasgow.

They donned their sweats and headed down to the beach to stretch their dancers' muscles, watched by a band of bemused locals. They practised in the main street of Lloret de Mar, the town where they were staying, and in the reception of their hotel.

It was just like Fame. No one minded, the hotel staff even turned their music on and off for them.

The International Dance Grand Prix is a yearly competition that attracts more than 1,500 entrants from more than 21 countries. The Anniesland College dancers were the only team from Scotland, and the only team from the UK in the over-16 category.

"I was quite confident that we could do well," says Laura Paul, student and choreographer of Jump Off, one of the dances they took to Barcelona. She turned 20 on day one of the four-day competition, when they had to get up and perform on a huge stage in front of thousands.

"Because it was such a huge competition I didn't see many of the entrants, but I still thought we could do it. Then the group before us went on and they were really good, doing lots of acrobatics."

But when the names where called out in the final moments of the competition, the group that had preceded them came second and Laura's confidence returned. Not without cause. The first-ever team from Anniesland to go to Barcelona came back with the Gold Cup for the hip hop category.

"This is an exceptional year," says Maxine Railton, the senior tutor at Anniesland, of the 12 women and three men who are soon to complete their HND. "That's why I took them to Barcelona. They are so exuberant and enthusiastic.

"The college principal, Linda McTavish, asked me if I thought they could do well and when I said yes, I really thought they could, she agreed to pay for most of it. The students had to raise 20 per cent of the cost."

It is not the first competition where the Anniesland HND students have trounced the opposition. They were shortlisted for the UK Skills Challenge this month, where they have won gold three years in a row. The dancers spent a long time preparing their entry for Tuesday.

"We all work together to help develop our dances," says Zara Findlay. "It's teamwork."

The Barcelona entry was an example of this. Ms Paul developed a hip hop dance for her unit of choreography in the HND. Some of the other dancers were also developing their own pieces but agreed to dance in hers.

"I worked out what I wanted, then I taught it to the others," she says. "I worked closely with Kevin Young, who led the piece. I knew he would be perfect for it."

Sitting in the large studio in Anniesland, the dancers are still glowing from their success.

"Team building is a really important part of this course," explains Serena Di Nardo, who has already purchased a studio from where she will run her own dance school.

"We all get on really well with one another. The course is designed to do this - from the start we are set pieces to develop together or in small groups."

"And we have evening classes together," says Craig Creelmand who, along with Kevin Young, has won a scholarship to the London Studio Centre to study dance.

He reels off names of some of the country's top dancers who have been tempted to run workshops for the group: Jarkko Lehmus of Scottish Ballet; Alan Greig, founder of the Scottish dance group X-factor; the Ballet Boys dance group; and, from beyond Scotland, the Australian Dance Theatre even ran one of their workshops.

The dance courses at Anniesland cover disciplines from ballet and contemporary to jazz and tap.

"A dancer's life is very short. It is all over by the time you are 30, so it is crucial that they have other skills such as teaching or choreography," says Ms Railton.

She started dancing in Glasgow, and moved to London to train at the London School of Contemporary Dance. She returned to Scotland in 1990 to work with Scottish Ballet Steps Out (the educational unit). She also works at the Dance School of Scotland in Knightswood Secondary, Glasgow.

All the students say the college has prepared them well.

"They give us guidance interviews and alert us to all the available opportunities and options," says Clare McSeveny.

Meanwhile, they are spending the short time that is left to them as a team putting together their end-of-year show. At least they can practise this in the college's dance studio.

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