London, Great Britain, August 2, 2012 – They come from all over the world and are responsible for keeping the enjoyment factor high at the beach volleyball whenever there is a break in play at Horse Guard’s Parade. They are the beach volleyball dance troupe and so far at the London 2012 Olympic Games they have been wowing the public and players alike with their routines.
Dance troupes are a regular feature of the FIVB SWATCH World Tour and have proved popular throughout beach volleyball’s 16-year life at the Olympics. Uniquely for the London 2012 troupe though, it is a mixed team featuring females and males.
Head choreographer Aicha McKenzie is the brains behind the look, style and routines. As a Londoner and a former Commonwealth Games rhythmic gymnastics medallist at the Victoria 1994 Commonwealth Games, she had a unique understanding of what the Games organisers were looking for and what the sport required.
“We thought how can we really change it up and we thought, ‘why not put boys in the mix?’, but it couldn’t be any guy, it had to be a certain type of guy, strong, be able to lift the girls and look good,” McKenzie said.
So far London 2012 has been the biggest event for McKenzie and many of her dancers. There are also the unique challenges of dancing on sand and in the open air, which has left them at the mercy of the ever-changing London weather.
It meant that she and her two associate choreographers - Shaun Niles and Stephanie Laughlin – had to be precise in their work and selection of the dancers, which include performers from France, Spain, Cuba, Trinidad, Belgium and Ireland.
Dancing on sand
“Dancers for beach volleyball had to tick so many boxes, but I really wanted to push the level and it is about skill and people being entertained and fulfilling the aim of what sports production wanted to see,” McKenzie said.
“Dancing on the sand it something totally different; every jump you drive your feet into the sand, your legs have to work three times as hard, you can’t pirouette and you almost have start again. That is why it is important to get your studio work right.”
Even though McKenzie admits that the opening morning was “nerve-wracking,” the dancers have firmly left their mark on events taking place in the heart of Britain’s monarchical and political life.
The look and style is based around a 1940’s and 50’s Hawaiian beach scene, an era which marked the start of the growth of beach culture. So far in London dancers have sat in deck chairs, played with inflatable beach balls and led the crowd in making Horse Guard’s Parade the most popular venue of these Olympics.
Their popularity also extends to the players, who have been quick to show their appreciation.
“They have been absolutely complimentary,” McKenzie said. “They have been really supportive. For them it is really another level.
“It is so obvious. We’re on a beach, so let’s have a beach scene. Sometimes you try to be too obvious and fight against the natural creative. It’s really interesting and I think it has gone down a storm.
“When I look at them now I realise how easy they make it look and it does look complicated, or difficult.”
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