Twirling Superstars

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At the heart of the International Baton Twirling Championships held at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England in August, was a group of standout athletes from Mackay’s very own International Dance Affair (IDA). Representing Australia among 1280 competitors from 21 countries, these six athletes displayed talent, determination and grace.

IDA’s team was composed of Turill Taylor, Yarra Taylor, Janee Emms, Kalea Stanieg, Lara Taylor, and Judy Vidulich. Judy also took on the role of a coach, assisting the team alongside Raelene Taylor.

Their journey to the championships was not without its challenges. They underwent rigorous training sessions, with feedback from the Australian Technical Director, Anastassia Tsaloukas, and world judge, Jackie Stewart. This dedication to their craft, combined with guidance from the USA coach Adeline Bebo, forged them into formidable competitors.

Competing primarily in the Level B category, IDA athletes showcased their talents in events such as Two Baton, Artistic Twirl, and Artistic Pairs. A highlight was the Black and Gold team’s performance, consisting of the IDA members, which caught significant attention in the Open Artistic Team event.

Reflecting on the championship, July remarked, “My biggest takeaway is that you’re capable of anything regardless of your age or ability.”

She praised the performance of her students, particularly Janee Emms, who, after her 2019 performance at the event, aimed to improve her rankings and did just that by securing a bronze medal in the Senior Three Baton category.

“Coaching five girls while also competing was both a wonderful experience and a challenge. The competition wasn’t just about medals for the IDA team, it was about personal growth, teamwork, and representing Mackay and Australia on the global stage.”

The team is very grateful for the support they received from the Mackay and Whitsunday region, both financially and in community spirit. Their major financial sponsors were Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, International Dance Affair and Mackay Regional Council.

For those intrigued by Baton Twirling, Judy encourages reaching out to clubs like International Dance Affair or Starlet Royales in Mackay.

“Baton twirling might not be the most mainstream sport, but it has a dedicated community, and events like this help spotlight its beauty and intricacy. The sport has transformed a lot since I began. It’s not just about the twirls and the tosses. Baton twirling is a dance of the heart, a synchrony of the body and mind. It combines not just dance but gymnastics as well.”

“I had an amazing time. It felt incredible and very surreal to be there and it has inspired me to work hard and try to reach that point again. I learnt a lot of valuable life lessons.” – Turill Taylor

“Representing Australia has been my dream since I was a little girl. The long hours, late nights, bruises and tears were well worth the outcome.” – Kalea Stanieg

“This journey from being selected right up to the competition has been long, but well worth it. It has taught me that even when things are tough you can get through it and if you can’t get something right away it’s ok. There will always be next time.” – Yarra Taylor

“It was an amazing experience. Meeting new people from all around the world and meeting my twirling idols. Nations Cup was an experience of a lifetime that will stay with me forever.” – Lara Taylor

“To be able to return to the international state after 4 unprecedented years was surreal. I’ve never felt such pride as I did bearing the Australian flag, surrounded by 20 other countries, and most importantly my team mates on the Australian Squad.” – Janee Emms

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