2013 BDFI Congress At The Embassy Championships

2013 BDFI Congress At The Embassy Championships

By Hazel Fletcher
Donnie Burns & Gaynor Fairweather

Donnie Burns & Gaynor Fairweather

For the 2013 Embassy BDFI Congress three lecturers presented their specialist styles. The Congress is presented annually during the Embassy Championships, and this year took place on the Thursday afternoon in the Pavilion on the hotel grounds.

First on was Bob Powers, who was twelve times USA Rhythm Champion and three times World Mambo Champion, with his partner and wife of twenty-one years, Julia Gorchakova. They live in Scottsdale Arizona. They are members of the International Dance Board of Arthur Murray International and the World Dance Arts Foundation. Bob has danced for 37 years. He has developed an aerobic Latin Dance fitness program entitled “Core Rhythms” and travels extensively as a coach consultant and adjudicator.

Bob commenced his lecture by asking the audience for answers to the question “What is the difference between International style and American Rhythm style Rumba?” Some of the replies included – bent knee action instead of straight – the tempo, which in American style is faster, usually played at 32 Bars per minute – and even “there is no difference!” Food for thought!

His first suggestion is you should never step without prior commencing with a body action that starts in the back and works downwards. Rhythm should always be seen continuously in the body. Bob stated that the step should always be taken on a slightly flexed knee not a straight one but without losing height or dipping into a press line type action.

He explained that there was a differing opinion amongst coaches regarding the timing of transfer of the weight. Some feel the action should commence with split weight and after shift weight. Others believe the weight change onto the flexed knee should be immediate.

The hip action is a compressed figure of 8 with one hip rotating forward and the other backwards. Bob advised dancers to listen to the music and in action describe the 8 “tics” in each bar of music relating to half beats and then dance steps on 1, 5 and 7. On the numbers 4, 6 and 8 is the only time when you should be over 2 straight legs. Bob illustrated this in the basic Rhythm Rumba box step.

During this congress some of the audience were visiting the USA for the first time so had not previously witnessed American style Rhythm. This lecture provided a clear and concise explanation of what Bob feels makes American Rumba unique from International style Rumba.

David Hamilton was three times US American Smooth Champion and three times World Show-dance finalist. He has danced for thirty-five years. He lives in Nashville Tennessee and is the owner of Dance World of Nashville studio and is also the organiser of Nashville Stars Ballroom Championships.

He commenced his lecture by stating that the American Smooth Ballroom style of dance is like the American constitution – Freedom of speech – Freedom to show what you personally want in your performance. To create the best Smooth the solution is to take many different styles of dance and generate a great mix. ʻTen dancersʼ have the potential to make great Smooth style dancers but the dancer needs to recognise many different aspects.

Alike the American constitution Freedom of speech is encouraged and allowed but it is preferable to not offend anyone. This applies also to the dance style; the characteristics of each dance must never offend the judge. David also believes a Classical Ballet upbringing helps.

In Smooth an understanding of Staccato and Legato mix is most necessary. He advises – Do not play on one layer of music constantly, play on different sounds and actions. Swing and sway versus vertical to create variance of interest, but both in the Slow Waltz and the Viennese Waltz it is necessary to maintain the character of Waltz through- out. Then in Foxtrot and Tango all kinds of varying atmospheres in selecting your choreography and style should be employed to show their individual characteristics.

Tango Doble was a name given to American Smooth Tango to assist with the dramatic characteristic of combining both Tango and Paso Doble dance emotions to create gender role play.

Different coaches can add so much variance to the Smooth style…. he advises dancers to take all possible varying information to assist. In choreography David suggests you have to find yourself, in order to make the creation of an individual identity.

This lecture gave a lot of information and food for thought for the attendees of the congress, whether they were familiar with the style of American Smooth or not.

The final lecture was Donnie Burns MBE and Gaynor Fairweather MBE. Donnie hails from Scotland where he began his dancing under the guidance of Harry Rollins. Later he moved to Manchester and was partnered up, by friend and Coach, Sammy Stopford, to Gaynor Fairweather. Donnie and Gaynor became fourteen times World Professional Latin American Champions and World Showdance Champions on the only occasion they entered. They were later awarded the MBE for their service to Dance.

After their legendary successful competitive career they now travel the World coaching, adjudicating and lecturing. Donnie is also the President of the World Dance Council. Donnie now lives in California and Gaynor splits her time between her homes in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Donnie commenced with explaining that to prepare for this lecture he and Gaynor had got together, put on their dance shoes, created a piece of Rumba choreography and actually had been rehearsing at 5am for several days to present something visual for the audience, true Professionalism! Donnie commenced with the question – “What is dancing all about?” His answer was – “To use mechanical principles in a way that move you, your partner and then hopefully the onlooker.” Mechanics, music and emotion as a mix are essential. He suggested start by looking beautiful, perfect centred posture was most evident from them both, and then the next stage in movement is compression of body weight which then becomes the lead. This then should be followed by co-ordinating the movement of two spines in order to move as one unit.

The importance of timing is paramount. This Donnie and Gaynor illustrated in showing the basic forward movement. “Focus, be in a bubble. The creation of mood starts at the very beginning, breathe together, tune in to one another.” This statement drew the large audience present into their demonstration of simple but emotionally charged characteristic choreography showing pure Man/Woman storyline continuously.

Donnie made a comparison to the dance floor suggesting that most concentrate on the larger square metre of floor, but the very narrow metal edges between the squares are the important factor. Like in dance – the in-betweens make up the whole package. They illustrated this by dancing a Basic Rumba Sliding Doors figure mixing fluidity with a little syncopation as a contrast, “breathe”….. Said Donnie, make it poetic.

“The combination of mechanics, Cuban motion and togetherness is what it is all about.” “The non touching togetherness should be as much together emotionally.” “Find each other’s hip weight then you have a chance to dance together.” “The small nuances of moody moments need to move people.” “What is good about today’s style is the use of all the body parts, if it can move – use it.” “If you want to move people don’t be in a race.” “Charisma and communication are not created from speed.”- So many thoughts sprung from Donnieʼs mind constantly to highlight the picture.

Gaynor was asked to add her thoughts “Keep it simple – endeavour to make the normal look simply magnificent.”

For those present this was so much more than a lecture, it was a totally absorbing forty minutes of sensitive, classy, deep emotional dedication and passion presented in pure dance, that was just magical.

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