DERT 2003 - Glasgow

by Kev Theaker

The established DERT format is easy to criticise. Lots of sitting aroinf then then only getting one, high pressured opportunity to compete, large numbers of dancers who don't actually get to dance in the competition and the creation of demonstration dances suitable for a big venue. I and many others have aired these views over several years, mostly privately after several beers and talking rapper bollocks. BUT, the question always came down to, could you do it better?

The idea of a judged pub tour is easy to suggest. Over beer and a weekend of Stone Monkey and Clydeside dancing in Glasgow the deal was agreed, Ranko and I would organise DERT 03. Having always said that rapper should be judged in its natural habitat in front of a proper audience we effectively backed ourselves into a corner, for if any city was favourable to this format it had to be rapper friendly (and is even more so now) and there are plenty of good hard floors in traditional city centre pubs all within a relatively small area.

What about the problems?

The first was accommodation. Indoor camping facilities are getting increasingly difficult to find, a problem that is not helped by a blanket ban (no pun intended) on the use of Council property for overnight sleeping. Trying to find a venue big enough for the Saturday display dances with accommodation for 100+ sleeping, in the city centre, was a major hurdle. Fortunately, Doug identified Henry Wood Hall, home of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, as a possible place which accepted the idea of indoor camping. However, this committed us to paying a hefty sum for the hire of the building for one weekend before we had any funding. Problem solved, until the fire officers restricted the building to 50 people camping.

However, there was a handy youth hostel around the corner so we made a block booking for 60 people, albeit at a higher cost than indoor camping - problem solved! Then the youth hostel burnt down - some things cannot be planned for. So we moved on to a block booking at Eurohostel, at a yet higher cost and after ticket prices were set.

Acceptable pubs?

This actually was not a great problem. It was a worry because of the time factor. The pubs couldn't be organised too far in advance as they weren't interested, but we needed to know that it was possible. Also, another catch is how many pubs are needed, and how many judges? These were questions that could not be answered until we knew how many teams were competing. Most of the occasion venues were known to us and by dancing in them occasionally throughout the year before DERT we kept them in the picture. There were sufficient pubs interested to enable some flexibility in the programming.

On the day

DERT 03 was well supported by teams across the country, and Jack the Rapper made the trip from Norway. Teams that not made an appearance at DERT in several years attended expressing pleasure at the different format and the opportunity to do more than one dance. At the moment when all 19 teams left Henry Wood Hall the entire competition was out of the organisers' control and in the hands of the Clydeside tour guides, dependent on the teams and the goodwill of the various landlords and audiences.

We sat waiting to deal with the problems - a lost pair of glasses was the most pressing case, a team complained about the lack of space (a rapper team complaining that a pub wasn't big enough?), one team going for the vomit record - which didn't materialise. At this point we realised that it had worked.

The evening was intended to allow everyone to see everyone else dance and/or go and tour. There was chaos in the running order - Clydeside without a team to start the proceedings and Ranko and Aileen compering and improvising madly to cover. Black Swan had failed to bring one of the prizes back - prophetically as it turned out. The potentially hazardous processing of mark sheets went without a hitch due to Nora's efficiency and her laptop, and finally... we had a set of results.

Another Black Swan triumph, Northgate clinching the Open, a tie for Best Character settled in the traditional audience abuse method giving Phil Heaton more silverware. And then it was over - lots of very happy and enthusiastic dancers and an exhausted Clydeside, wandering about in a daze still not comprehending what we had achieved. I think that really came on Sunday, trying to stop Dorset Buttons from publicly thanking us at every opportunity, hearing it described as the best DERT ever and listening to Martin worrying about next year.

Having broken the mould what could be next? This format didn't allow for more than two categories. Where do all the traditional dances fit if this is adopted as the standard? The marking and awarding of prizes need to be modified. At present it is inevitable that the winners of the Premier Class are going to also walk away with the Tyzack Shield and Steve Marris Trophy. Is there a need to find a way of spreading the prizes around to encourage other teams? Most improved team since last DERT appearance perhaps?

Reflections on organising DERT: incredibly stressful, hugely enjoyable and an emotional rollercoaster for all concerned, but at the end of the day, absolutely brilliant!