CARLSBAD – Englishman Philip Robertson, a slight man in a dark blue sport coat with silver piping and gold buttons on it, may have imparted a little bit of fear, even apprehension in the students, staff and volunteers of Pacific Ridge School last Friday.
Robertson, an adjudicator with Guinness World Records, was on hand to verify the school’s attempt to become the record holder for largest African dance. After going through the rules and how the dancers would be judged, the reality of entering the record books seemed to hit home.
“I was actually very nervous,” said Mina Fardeen, a tenth grader, who participated in the event. But she credited her little brother for making her practice the dance the night before, and so she felt confident that she was ready for the challenge.
Though, the school wasn’t gathered just for the record breaking attempt.
The dance was more assembled for the school’s latest celebration, said Dr. Bob Ogle, head of Pacific Ridge School.
What they were celebrating was the announcement of their newest projects – the construction of a permanent middle school building and arts center at the school’s 7-year-old growing campus. At a cost of $25 million, they’re anticipating the construction of the two facilities to be complete by the spring of 2015.
The practicing of the dance began on Feb. 25. Most of the students, Ogle explained, had already learned the dance as seventh graders. So, he added, that that was an added benefit when going for the record.
Tony Oliverio, who will be part of the class of 2016, was one of the students that had to learn the dance steps three days before the record attempt.
“It was really fantastic for me to get to come in, and in those short three days, all come together as a school community and make this great thing happen,” he said.
The dance wasn’t hard to learn, he explained.
In the end, 504 dancers successfully participated in the dance, earning them entry into the Guinness World Records.
Robertson said Guinness World Records gets between 40,000 to 70,000 applications per year for entry.
“Worldwide, we adjudicate perhaps 100 every year, which is still an awful lot,” he said. “And it’s actually pretty exciting to travel to North America and see these extraordinary things happen.”
Just three months ago the school submitted its application and the Guinness World Record application committee fast-tracked it to ensure that an adjudicator was present for the event, Robertson explained.
As an adjudicator, Robertson said watching every record breaking attempt – succeed or fail – is exciting.
“There’s no record I haven’t smiled at,” he said. “Even some of the tragic failures, or the unsuccessful attempts, there’s been elements of real beauty.”
The school performed a line dance consisting of throwing arms up and out to the side, kicking up heels and toes and doing several turns, to South African singer Miriam Makeba’s song, “Pata Pata,” which was written in the 1950s.