Meet Wayne Marsh - NZ's disco dancing champion who wishes his hit video had never seen the light of day video

Wayne Marsh and dance partner Janine in Albert Park, Auckland, in 1980.
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Wayne Marsh and dance partner Janine in Albert Park, Auckland, in 1980.

He had the silky moves and the silky suit to accompany them: Wayne Marsh was New Zealand's lone representative at the 1980 EMI World Disco Dancing Championships in London.

Filmed at the Empire Ballroom in Leicester Square, Marsh was contestant number 20 in a worldwide field of 33 competitors strutting their stuff in front of a boogying studio audience for a Thames Television broadcast.

A video of that remarkable finale is on YouTube, and this month it re-emerged in all its glory on social media - to Marsh's alarm.

Wayne Marsh represented New Zealand at the EMI World Disco Dancing Championships in 1980.
YouTube

Wayne Marsh represented New Zealand at the EMI World Disco Dancing Championships in 1980.

"Oh no, I hoped that would never come out," Marsh said when contacted at his home in Waipawa, Hawkes' Bay. "I was hoping it would never see the light of day, that video."

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Wayne Marsh represented New Zealand at the EMI World Disco Dancing Championships in 1980.
YouTube

Wayne Marsh represented New Zealand at the EMI World Disco Dancing Championships in 1980.

In an era where afros and glitter balls were cool, baby, Marsh was king of the illuminated dance floor.

"I moved to Auckland to work and study fashion," he explains. "By surprise, I won the national competition in 1977, that was quite a big event with so many dancers from the major regions."

For the next two years he performed in floor shows throughout Auckland and formed a trio called High Energy, which travelled to Australia while disco dominated the dance floor.

"Dalvanius Prime had organised the 1980 Nationals and I was encouraged to enter again, with the opportunity of attending the World Championships in London. To win a second time allowed me to represent New Zealand in what was to be an amazing experience.

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"The sights of London and meeting the other contestants certainly were highlights. However, the type of disco music that we were expected to dance to was definitely a little different than I was used to. My preference lent more to funk."

Each dancer at the competition had just 15 seconds to strut their stuff in front of the judges.

"The floor was so slippery, it was perspex. Six or seven people had slipped on the floor so I was very cautious and used the top of my body.

"Tumbling was my speciality but I didn't want to fall over in front of the whole world, so it was a challenge."

His silky blue outfit was a reminder of home, sporting a tuatara on the back which ran across his shoulder.

"The boots had a four and a half inch heel but I had some that were much higher. I had so many outfits, just in case."

The competition was won by a South African dancer, with a Singaporean in second place and an American in third.

His family's interest in dance and gymnastics saw him advance through to not only become a champion in trampoline from the age of 10, but also an avid choreographer through his teenage years.

"It was certainly a big help in my later years."

On his return home Marsh continued to dance, touring the country, and later open up several clothing outlets in Auckland and Hastings. 

Tama Huata approached him in 1985 to teach and choreograph contemporary Māori dance for the Takitimu Performing Arts School, and the Kahurangi Maori Dance Company, a  position that has seen him expand his creative outlet for many years.

Now he's still teaching moves - these days he's involved in judging and coaching trampolining, but he has fond memories of his reign as New Zealand's disco king in those early years - although those fond youthful memories are not so much a secret anymore.

"All those people from all those countries back in the day, we were just having a good time learning from each other, enjoying our short time together, and dancing."

 - Stuff

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