Reporter 414, 9 February 1998

Leeds student steps out on international stage

Like many students, Wesley Atack takes his dancing seriously. But you won’t find him queueing outside a Leeds nightclub at the weekend. This Business Management and German student is more likely to be hanging out in a former bus garage in Preston, the training ground of Britain’s top formation dance team.

Wesley is part of the 18-strong team Atack team – trained by his mother Carol and her husband Nick – which represented the country last month at the world formation dance championships in Germany. All aged between 17 and 30, mostly students or people in full-time work, the dancers fit in at least ten hours of dance training every week, on top of stamina-building exercises.

The sport has finally gained the status it has sought for many years with recognition from the International Olympic Committee. It could be included in the Games as early as 2004.

“It can be really hard work fitting in the training on top of my studies,” says Wesley, aged 20. “It can get a bit nasty when it gets toward competition time, but it just means I’ll go home at the weekends and do eight hours.”

Wesley also plays for the University’s American football team, and inevitably comes in for a bit of stick from his fellow players. “They all do a little dance when I score a touchdown, but one of the coaches is a professional dancer so I get plenty of respect from him, and with my dancing I’m probably one of the team’s fittest people.”

Back on the dancefloor, the Atack team has been adopting a new approach. They dropped the more staid English style in favour of a faster continental routine incorporating a samba, a slow rumba, jive and a paso doble. Wesley says: “Now we have changed to a more European style it is livelier, more athletic, with more show and enjoyment.”

Although unplaced in the recent world championships, the team did better than any British team for many years. The next challenge is the British Open on 29 May.

Wesley will be spending next year in Germany and he is already looking for somewhere to dance out there. “I can’t give it up,” he says. “I’ve grown up with it and I get to meet so many people it’s a way of life now.”

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