On Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th July 2023 Team FineSteps attended their first NATD Medallist Of The Year at Blackpool Winter Gardens, Empress Ballroom, the most prestigious Ballroom in the world.

We were all apprehensive about the weekend, unsure of what the standard of dancing would be like and how able we would be to compete. Well, our FineSteppers exceeded all our expectations. They were simply superb!

Mr and Ms FineSteps travelled up on Friday morning, with Molly in tow. The rest of the FineSteps gang was soon to follow. Generally, everyone’s journeys were very slow and we all agreed we hate the M6! Of course, we stopped off at the services and who did we see, Maddie and her family. We can’t seem to do a pit stop on a competition weekend without bumping into someone we know.

Finally, we made it to Blackpool, after a gruelling 5-hour journey! The next challenge was to fit Ms FineSteps’ massive car through the tiny tiny gate at our apartment. Thankfully we made it through. After unpacking all our stuff, or in Molly’s case laying each item out on her dressing table, we headed off to the Winter Gardens to get our welcome packs. Of course, we had a quick peek into the Ballroom, and what a magnificent building it is! The last time we’d been there was when Charlie was competing in 2018, so it was almost like we’d stepped into the room for the first time again.

With a very busy two days ahead we grabbed a bite to eat and headed off to bed.


We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, raring to get on the dance floor. Helen and Ruby arrived in the nick of time after travelling up from a competition the previous evening. We managed to find the teacher’s entrance to the building, thanks to a friendly face, and made our way into the Ballroom before all the dancers started to pile in. 

8 am and our FineSteppers were the first through the doors. Seeing the look on all our students’ faces when they saw the Winter Gardens for the first time was truly magical. Helen set up her glam station at the back of the FineSteps block and got to work on those who needed help with their hair. Once everyone was dressed, had their numbers on, had been subjected to photos by their parents and had been on the dance floor for a warm-up, we were ready to go. Miss Molly, the chief organiser, had been through every detail and knew which group were up first, 8 & 9 PSDT Rumba, at precisely 9.06 am.

Nerves were high for the first few dances but we soon felt at ease, which was good as we didn’t have much rest between rounds. The competition was pretty fierce, so waiting for recalls was agonising! We soon discovered that it was much easier to run around to the board and see which of the students had made it through to the next round. In the Juvenile section, we had 3 semi-finalists and 2 finalists, Elodie who took home 5th place and Freddie who bagged 2nd place! What a fantastic start to the day!

Next up Junior Solos and Juvenile Couples. What we are most proud of is how all our students dealt with the disappointment of not making the next round, although we had a few tears here and there, they took it in their stride and continued to support those who had made it through. We again had 2 finalists in the Junior section, with a 4th place for Maddie in Samba and 1st place for Ellis’ Jive.

As the day progressed there was more and more time between our rounds, so the Team dug into their snack bag, and Nikki had her hair redone several times! The Adult Solos saw a swap to Ballroom with a few Juvenile Latin Couples dances thrown in the mix too. The success story of the day was having two finalists in the same category, Michael and Neil, taking home 2nd and 5th place in PSDT Quickstep. We also had a final for Ellis and Poppy who took the 3rd place trophy. Their Cha Cha Cha was fabulous, and the hours and hours of practice paid off. 

Finally, it was time for the teachers to relax as the Adult Couples were up next. Some of the spectators also decided they’d like to relax and have a few glasses of wine, providing great entertainment for us all! Lizzie and Maddie managed to reach the semi-final of the very competitive 16-21 Bronze Waltz, which was truly fantastic! The best part of competition day for us teachers is seeing all the aspects we’ve been working on come together. This was definitely the case for Grace and Ellie’s Viennese Waltz when all the change steps were in the perfect place. Much to our delight they came 5th! Michael and Anne also had 3rd place for their Waltz. 

At 10.45 pm we left the Winter Gardens. A quick cuppa, a slice of toast and off to bed ready to do it all again on Sunday.


We all slept like logs! A new day meant a new hairstyle for Ms FineSteps courtesy of Helen, the official FineSteps hairstylist. Off to the Ballroom we went, minus the bag with all paperwork for the day, oops! Thankfully Ruby grabbed it and brought it with her. 

Everyone arrived in high spirits for day 2. Helen wasn’t in such high demand as most of the girl’s hair had stayed in overnight, however, she did put nearly a whole tube of hair gel in Ellis’ hair! Numbers were handed about again and everyone had one last practice before it was showtime. There always seems to be at least one wardrobe malfunction at competitions; on Saturday it was Ruby who had to be safety pinned into her bodysuit but Sunday morning saw some urgent sewing on one of the girl’s Ballroom skirts. Thankfully it was fixed in time, well done Mum!

Up first again, 8 & 9 years followers, this time dancing the Tango. The standard of Ballroom dancing was much higher than we anticipated! We had a couple of recalls and one semi-finalist. However, Freddie reached his final and took 3rd place. An awesome weekend for him, who will now be known as ‘Two Finals Fred’!

Time for some Juvenile Couples and Junior Solos. Once again the standard of Ballroom dancing was really high, so those dancing solos didn’t make it past the first few rounds. However, they learnt so much by watching other competitors and now have a list of things they want to focus on when they return to class. Two of our Juvenile Couples reached the semi-final of the 10 & 11 Tango, which in all honestly was quite unexpected, as both couples have only been dancing together for two months. They did so well. Finally a huge congratulations to Ellis who came 1st in the Junior PSDT Leader Quickstep, making him a two-time champion! 

We then moved on to the Junior Ballroom Couples and Adult Solo Latin. Much to our delight Ellis and Poppy made the final of the 12 & 13 Waltz and took 6th place. They danced so beautifully so there were a few tears from the parents, especially as it was the last time they will be dancing together. Both Anne and Grace made their semi-finals too. At this point Molly and Charlie both left, as Charlie had work the next day and Molly was catching a lift back with Helen and Ruby, leaving Ms FineSteps flying solo for the last few hours. It was then Michael’s turn to dance the Jive and did so with a last-minute change of partner. Michael came 2nd and Michael and Anne got to dance the Jive together at Blackpool, a dream come true.

The last up were the Adults Latin Couples. We had three couples enter into this section Lizzie and Maddie, Grace and Ellie and Michael and Anne. Both Lizzie and Maddie and Grace and Ellie made it through a few rounds. Being in the 16-21 age category is probably the hardest, and both couples danced their hearts out! The final category of the weekend was the 35 to 49 Cha Cha Cha, which Michael and Anne only went and won! What a fantastic way to finish the weekend.

Final Thoughts

Overall we had a fantastic weekend with the NATD in Blackpool. Thank you to everyone at the NATD for organising such an amazing event. We are so proud of all our students, not only for their dancing over the 2 days but their commitment leading up to the competition, their attitude over the weekend and their dedication to each other as teammates. They are all an absolute credit to our school. To see all the photos check out our photo highlights.