19th UK Congress – Part 1

Report by Jack Reavely courtesey of Dance News: Part One

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Simona Fancello

The eager participants, and attenders too, at this year’s BDFI Congress were rewarded with some superb information, coupled to seeing just how good dancing should look and also the magnificence of seeing and hearing Sammy Stopford and Barbara McColl spilling information like confetti at a wedding into the ears of the listeners, as well as being able to see them dance once more on the large TV screen which showed them competing in days gone by.

There is more than a sufficiency of mediocrity in the world outside dancing, so I hope fervently that technical skills will continue to be cherished as today’s lecturers evidently do, so as to retain characterisation too.

Simona Fancello: ‘The Woman’ is the title of her lecture today and this young lady is absolutely ‘All Woman’ … all dancing and beautifully fervent and she conveys femininity and magnificent dance prowess too.

As she talks, I can hear her whisper to herself that women are important … course they are Simona … she seems to say ‘Si-Men-Mo’aning is not what a woman wants … Footwork must be clear and strong and a lady exponent must be absolutely sure of her input and also her output. A good lady must be able to dance on her own and her centre must be UP … She must not push her hips forward to the man or it will ruin her posture. Her knees are forward … Simona laughs and says that the first item which always seems to be so very important for the male species is that ‘You are heavy’ as a lady dance exponent. The lady of course must be balanced at all times. You can be connected to your partner without too much pressure … you are not glued together … and you must practice, practice and then practice again as much as you can … every day if possible if you wish to be welcomed to the upper strata of exponents. The men always ‘think’ they have perfect balance and a perfect silhouette too … poor dears … The man should use pressure into his standing foot to get a good stance, which would please Simona and who wouldn’t wish to please her?

The lady rotates her centre to her right to adopt it under the body and she can give a man the opportunity to complain to her if she isn’t balanced and doesn’t set up a flexible body stance, to which the man can respond … who would be brave enough to complain to Simona? … But I bet that she could name a few. A lady MUST be on her feet … “I am all alone but I want to dance Foxtrot” she said … I leaped from my seat but fell over my shoe laces before I could attempt to take advantage and be her partner. She smiled, not because of my fall but because of her escape from purgatory had she allowed me the pleasure.

Simona danced, I gasped and, as I watched her smooth action I was conscious of expertise beyond the capabilities of most, but acquirable through application and desire. Her feather finish was so fluid and yet still muscularly terrific. Taking big steps and moving centre is no good for a lady who wishes to become top class. Use your standing leg and knee and ankle, and the centre of gravity is moved by the man. Going forward, the lady’s body weight goes forward and body weight is used. ‘La Deeference’ of forward and back steps was succulently and seriously laid to the bones by Simona … She now has hundreds of extra admirers … It is as if she is playing a ‘Cello’ and ‘Fan’ning the flames for sure, so as to make the embers leap into a magnificent portrait of the demands of a lady dancer. I move my centre and my legs fall under it … I collect my centre and then move it … and you do not stick your legs forward to move forward. I must move my body weight to give the best possible help to my man of dance … All in English too … Sometimes, Simona wonders if her man is sometimes, just sometimes, not so perfect as he thinks he is … So ladies must perhaps ask him politely if he could improve the aspect which could disturb the lady … You must believe in yourself to dance well. Simona now blushes somewhat coyly and tells everyone that she used to fight a lot with her partner … but, since retiral her brain is much more relaxed … “Oh how I wish I could go back and do it all again” she says … Those words echo throughout the world of dance from those who used to and wish that they also could do so again.

Thank you Simona … It reminds me of a quote given by Sammy Davies Junior when he said after losing an eye … “If I can’t dance I don’t want to live”. A wee problem with music arrived just as Simona wished to dance a final solo Foxtrot … The audience sang to give her a rhythm and she danced to the leader’s voice … Marcus of course, the singing Champion of Dance. Matthew Cutler: “Wow, this isn’t intimidating at all” joked Matthew as he took stage and he instantly started to talk about how to produce good Latin dance. The upper body and its relationship to the rest of the body he finds to be vital, as he so often sees a lack of co-ordination and distortion between the body segments. You must create positions from which you can recover. Very often physical power is on show and over progression is another aspect which Matthew sees a lot of and some couples seem to be able to progress to an enormous distance in only a few steps … but it does not work. On comes Nicole … such a nice young lady and she hands Matthew a wee glass of water which he so appreciates.

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Matthew Cutler & Nicole

Together they then showed some of the grotesque shapes which can so spoil it all. Once again the very endearing sense of dry humour is clear to hear and it is coupled to extreme expertise which is on show, The BDFI sure ain’t lacking in foresight, which enables them to choose world class lecturers. The depth of knowledge from the chosen lecturers has been gained by many years of study and an absolute commitment to portray class dance, which eventually took them to the top results, reserved for those whose intellectual skills enable them to surmount the difficulties. How to prepare to dance through use of posture. A concise explanation of creativity to induce posture, without restricting your breathing. A lovely explanation of the use of hips and legs and a feature was the unobtrusive, but so beautiful, way in which Nicole used her wrists and hands as they danced … As Matthew talked, his and Nicole’s body too illustrated his words and it was utterly clear that, if knowledge is power, they are a powerful force within dance and the years of lessons, practice and contemplation has produced their enormous talents. I can hear and see Alan and Hazel Fletcher’s minds whirring with delight, as they had so much of an input into the production of excellence we saw and heard today. A’sinking-in’ relaxation is necessary before taking a step and this was shown and epitomised so much of what Latin dance is all about. To propel yourself, you have to settle your weight towards the floor. The connection of the hands, from man to lady, coupled to rotation, hip movement and then weight transference. Simply beautifully illustrated, with the silence of the lambs betraying utter interest as attenders gulped down the information and treated it as an gourmet meal of dance which it was. “So that’s what I love to see” said Matthew … “So do we”. The whole body should move without stopping, flexibly and also as an individualist as well … you must use your body to dance if you wish to convey excellence. Matthew and Nicole danced, just for those in attendance, a Rumba and it was simply mesmerically beautiful. The muscular usage in Nicole’s legs from knee to ankle and her neatness of foot closure or spin action … pheew … juicylicious indeed. If you wish to see these lectures get in touch with DSI as I understand they were filmed, along with the great interview with Sammy Stopford and Barbara McColl which followed on from these lectures. Fred Astaire in the film ‘Follow the Fleet’ showed his business card and it was ‘Baker and Martin (Fred and Ginger) ‘High Class Patter and Genteel Dancing’ … Just as we were served up with today, courtesy of the BDFI.

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