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The great Oldham dance off. Troupes ready their moves

The great Oldham dance off. Troupes ready their moves

On Sunday October 6, around 700 girls from Oldham will be competing in the Great Oldham Dance Off at the town’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The competition operates in two arenas and will run all day, non-stop from 9am-6pm, such is the massive popularity of dance troupes. There are 14 different troupes in Oldham alone, and each has four age groups, their ages ranging from toddlers to grandmothers. The majority are, as you would expect, aged 7-18 – the age most people find their passions and have the energy to indulge them! The dancers practice and fine-tune their 15-minute routines in church halls at least once a week, then compete on Saturdays and Sundays in carnivals and competitions all over the north of England.

There are two codes in troupe dancing just like Rugby Union and Rugby League carve up rugby. This is the only competition in which troupes from the Manchester and North East Cheshire Carnival Organisation (MANECCO) and the Mid-Cheshire Independent Adjudicating Panel (MCIAP) troupes compete against each other, which makes the Oldham event and its rivalries just that little bit more exciting than most.

Oldham dance troupe
There is true rivalry between the troupes and codes, of course: the two organisations needed quite a bit of negotiating over a scoring formula, for example.
This year there is very strong competition from the top teams for the number one spot across all age groups competing.

As with most competitive pastimes, dance troupes can be expensive to organise – and to be a part of. There are occasional benefactors: in 2015 the Stoller Foundation – started by great Oldham philanthropist Sir Norman Stoller – gave money to support formation of the Union of Oldham Dance Troupes and to offer financial help for three years.

But the troupes need between £10,000 and £20,000 each a year to compete, and receive no external funding except for a £2,000 grant from the Union of Oldham Dance Troupes. A condition of the funding is participation in the Great Oldham Dance Off.

“Most of the 14 Oldham troupes have a coach to travel across the North West to competitions and carnivals. I provide parking for their coaches on secure land next to my yard in Hollinwood, which saves the troupes another £1,000 a year.”

Oldham business man Frank Rothwell, chairman of UODT, says “we make our donations to the troupes in October, and it is mainly used to buy the material for next year’s costumes. “Most of the 14 Oldham troupes have a coach to travel across the North West to competitions and carnivals. “I provide parking for their coaches on secure land next to my yard in Hollinwood, which saves the troupes another £1,000 a year.”

For the dancing troupes this is a way of life, not just a hobby. Being a contributing member of a dance troupe encourages grit, respect and supportiveness, and encourages teamwork and communication. As well as helping dancers to keep fit and healthy, they develop a sense of pride, an air of self confidence and the ambition to succeed – by dancing the best they possibly can.

The dance-off – at only £2 admission for the whole day, with stalls from local businesses and all money raised going back into helping the troupes for next season – is truly a local event not to be missed. Great competitive fun!

 

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