Beach volleyball: Where sports and showbiz meet

Mon Aug 6, 2012 11:59am EDT
 
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - The breathless athletes step aside, the music starts, and a troupe of dancers in retro beachwear, 1950s hairstyles and oversize sunglasses take the stage, or rather the court.

It's showtime at Horse Guards Parade, London's Olympic beach volleyball venue, where spectators enjoy a winning combination of world-class sports, spectacular views of historic London, exuberant commentary and dance routines worthy of a pop concert.

It may look like a bit of fun to keep the crowds entertained during players' breaks, but on closer inspection it turns out a lot of thought, effort and expertise has gone into creating a memorable experience for those lucky enough to get tickets.

"We're at the top of our game in London with music and fashion and style and it was really important for London 2012 to project that to the world," Aicha Mckenzie, the choreographer behind the dances performed on the sandy court, told Reuters.

The 28 dancers from 15 countries are professionals who have worked with the likes of Madonna, Kylie Minogue or Rihanna. But performing on sand in a stadium packed with 15,000 rowdy fans is a different ball game, so to speak.

"Dancing on the sand is a killer. I don't know how the athletes run around for so long doing it," said Shaun Niles, one of the dancers and a co-choreographer with Mckenzie.

"As soon as you move about in the sand you sink, so trying to run around and carry someone else and then run around with them as well, I'm like, 'What else do you want me to do?'" said the Londoner, whose previous gigs have included dancing for Janet Jackson, Leona Lewis and Victoria Beckham.

The dancers are assisted by the voice of Horse Guards Parade, Peter Dickson, who pumps up the crowd all day with colorful commentary and lots of shouting.   Continued...

 
Dancers perform during a break in the women's preliminary round beach volleyball match between Switzerland's Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr against Russia's Anna Vozakova and Anastasia Vasina at Horse Guards Parade during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo