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Alberta trio teams up for division win at World Country Dance Championships

Former Calgarian Laura Watson, Airdrie's Michael Pollock and Calgary dance coach Bryan Senn are triumphant after four years of hard work.

When they started calling the placements for Diamond Division 4 at the World Country Dance Championships in Phoenix, Laura Watson figured they’d at least be on the podium.

They go from fifth to first and when fifth came and went, Watson, and partner Michael Pollock from Airdrie, stayed calm.

“Then they called fourth, and third – and I looked at my coach Bryan – then second. I’m like ‘oh man, did we really screw this up?’” Watson recalled.

“And then they called first place, and it was our names.”

Watson, a former Calgarian now living in Red Deer, along with Pollock captured first place in their division at the World Country Dance Championships last week. They, along with Calgary dance coach Bryan Senn, celebrated four years of hard work.

“We’ve been working on this now for four years, we’ve gone to three worlds and this time around, we got our championship,” Watson said.

Couples have to perform eight dances: Two-step, Waltz, Triple 2, Night Club Slow, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Polka and Cha Cha. They scored on those performances for a cumulative winner.

The pair competed against six other couples in their division.

“As soon as I heard the name, ‘Michael,’ I automatically took my glasses off, put them down, they were sitting in the chair, jumped up, turned and looked at Laura,” Pollock said.

“She’d already jumped out of her chair, and we were literally screaming.”

A partnership that blossomed

“Dancing with Laura is like a piece of heaven,” Pollock said of his partner.

They were brought together after Pollock’s prior partner stopped dancing, and he’d known Laura from before. That’s when the championship pairing was first forged.

Watson, who began dancing 12 years ago, started off in ballroom. When Pollock approached her, she wasn’t that keen on making the jump to country.

“I’m like, ‘I don’t like the two-step,’” Watson said.

“He said I should give it a try anyway and so I gave it a try and once I learned how to do it a bit better, I thought, “OK, this isn’t so bad.”

There’s a crossover between ballroom and country and that’s what kept Watson interested. She describes Pollock as a supportive lead.

“Gentlemen have to watch out for the girls on the floor because there’s other couples to navigate, and he is always watching out for me on the floor,” Watson said.

“He takes very good care of me.”

The pair practice at least two, maybe three times a week. Watson is in Red Deer, Pollock in Airdrie and Senn is in Calgary. Someone’s always on the move for practice.

“(Pollock) not only supports me on the floor to keep me safe and keep me comfortable, he puts in the dedication and the hard work to keep this partnership moving,” Watson said.

What makes the partnership a world championship one?

Watson said a lot of hard work. Pollock said it’s their connection.

“We look at each other on the floor and the audiences and judges see that,” Pollock said.

“It looks like we’re having fun. That’s what they (judges) want to do. They want to look at someone who’s having fun.”

‘Proud papa’

Senn has been coaching and competing in ballroom and country dance for the past 35 years. When he was younger, he was seriously injured in a freak snowmobile crash. He got into dancing as therapy.

“There are some people who never dance to compete, right? A lot of people just dance because they want to dance,” he said.  

“Then people take it to the next level, and they start to compete.”

Senn had been dancing with Watson in professional / amateur competitions when Pollock and her connected. They’d asked Senn to be their coach.

Over the past four-plus years, Senn said he’s seen real growth and refinement in their skills. He said they began putting their choreography together, their patterns and figures and then they started talking about that connection and expression on the floor.

Seeing it all come together is rewarding.

“It’s like that proud papa when you see your kids walk for the first time,” Senn said.

“When you see your couples on the dance floor and they’re frightened beyond belief, the knees are shaking up and down and everything. Then you see that confidence start to grow.

“You can’t feel more proud. It’s amazing to see the growth from everybody every single month.”

The euphoria of the win

Senn welled up when asked how he felt when Watson and Pollock were announced as winners.

“A lot of tears,” he said.

Pollock said growth in their mindset, eliminating negative self-talk – breathing – all helped lift them up from their prior three attempts at worlds into the championship position.

“We just stayed grounded. Just do what you already know what to do. You’ve got the basics. Stay with the basics. The finesse, stay with finesse,” he said.

Watson said the moment they were announced as winners was euphoric.

“Oh, my God. It was breathtaking,” she said.

“It was fabulous. There were tears shed. There were lipstick stains. It was awesome.”