Earlier this year, I shared the remarkable news that my son Bruce had been selected for the Dance World Cup. This meant that we would be travelling to Portugal in June for him to perform his lyrical dance.

It was established early on that all five of us would be travelling, along with Ceri’s mum, Granny.

The trip was the biggest undertaking since Ceri and I got married, only this time most of the organization was on me. At the time we didn’t know the exact dates, so aimed for a 14-day window, and put in early requests for time off school. We chose a three-bedroomed Airbnb property near Póvoa de Lanhoso, about 30 minutes drive from Braga, the host city of the competition. Flights were booked through Ryanair, and a car hired with Europcar.

Passports, which we hadn’t required since the late 2010s, were renewed or applied for, insurances sorted out, medical cards applied for, and money saved.

Huge thanks must go to local people who supported Bruce with various fundraising, his dance school, and also everyone who contributed on GoFundMe. We couldn’t have made or survived the trip without you.

Reaching the Airbnb

Driving from Porto airport in an unfamiliar left-handed car, on the right hand side of the road for the first time, and under the influence of travel sickness tablets, was a challenge.

(If you’re interested, the hire was a petrol-powered Dacia Jogger, which while spacious enough for six people, was not great with hills, which is a shame as Braga has a lot of them; as did the Airbnb…)

We reached the Airbnb an hour later than expected, and were greeted by the host, Manuel, and his translator, Joao, who appeared (according to a magazine we found) to be involved in the local rock music scene.

The house is one of the most remarkable structures I’ve ever seen, an old farmhouse with a modern extension built around a massive lump of what I think is granite. It has four floors, sits on the top of a small hill, has a massive driveway, impressive grounds, a tennis/basketball court, swimming pool, and 600m road running to it.

(And yes, the car hated it.)

The Dry Run to Braga

After a good night’s sleep, we took a trip into Braga. Knowing that Bruce was dancing 9am meant we had to be there an hour earlier next morning (standard for dance comps) so knowing the journey and gauging accuracy for the trip (with help from Google Maps) seemed wise.

As it happened, we had to drive in anyway so Bruce could register his presence for the competition. This meant parking in the Altice Forum in Braga, a venue roughly the size of a UK arena, but with fewer parking spaces.

It’s a big, clean place, with a cafe and a restaurant as well as various working rooms.

While there, I grabbed the competition programme. It now has pride of place on the “public” bookshelf in our house. Meanwhile, Bruce managed to get himself stung, which required a bit of first aid and a chat with one of the stage managers for the DWC.

The Big Day

On Friday June 30th, at around 9am, Bruce was the third of six dancers competing in the boy’s lyrical section on the Red Stage (one of two) in the Altice. It was a quiet auditorium at that time of day, with under 50 people in a very large room with a massive stage.

He seemed to dance well, but the competition was considerable, with some very good young men (up to 14). Bruce made friends with another boy, also from England.

After the dance, we had to wait until about lunchtime for the results, so we killed some time, then returned to the auditorium. All the morning session’s competitors appeared on stage for the awards. The boy’s lyrical danced first, so they were announced first – and Bruce came third!

The Parade!

It wasn’t over. That evening, a vast opening parade took place through the streets of Braga. By this time, Bruce was a bit tired. It was hot, and we’d been on our feet since 6.30am (for that 7.30 drive into Braga). Thousands of competitors and their families assemed for the parade, which would conclude in a nearby square after a very long walk with banners and flags and plenty of onlookers cheering.

I’ll be honest, it was quite emotional. Bruce had a turn on my shoulders after Daisy and Erin-rose, where he stayed for most of the walk. Eventually, deciding it was too late for the concert at the end, we returned to the car, grabbing an ice cream on the way.

After a quick bit of supper, we were all in bed. It had been a very long day.

Where’s Your Suntan?

The photos and videos accompanying this came from our second day in Braga. Regardless, despite temperatures of 40 degrees C, we came home with little more than a light tan. And I’ll tell you why: that weather is too hot to be out in.

During the rest of the trip (essentially a holiday), we visited Porto, various villages and castles, and returned to the Altice Forum to see other dances and watch the final on July 8th. Due to some counting quirks, Bruce’s section didn’t qualify for the big final, but that didn’t matter as it was quite a spectacle, giving us the chance to see some performers we hadn’t seen on stage during the trip.

On July 12th, we flew home via Manchester, collected our car from the car park (incredibly waiting for us at the entrance) and made the journey on the M60, M1, and A19 back to Redcar. Outside our house, all our neighbours were gathered to greet and congratulate Bruce, which was a stunning surprise, and really nice.

Two weeks on, we’ve already done another dance competition (and he pulled a couple of medals and trophies). The girls have more energy for dancing too, having been exposed to the DWC culture for a week. Despite being 30 minutes away most of the time, it was a bit like living at a dance competition.

We’re all so proud of Bruce, I can’t believe how well he did. To finish, here’s a clip of Bruce on BBC Tees last week.