BDFI Congress at the Embassy Ball – 2014

Hazel Fletcher

Hazel Fletcher

Hazel Fletcher reports from Irvine, California.

Four lectures, each of thirty minutes duration, is the annual format as part of the five day Embassy Ballroom Championships, Irvine, California and this year taking place in the Grand Ballroom following the matinee session on Thursday. Greg Smith, Chairman of the BDFI, opened the lecture session with announcing it will be a star studded cast. First on was Taliat Tarsinov – Former Russian Professional Latin, Ten Dance, Latin Showdance, Ballroom Showdance and Exhibition Champion. He lives in New York.

Since retiring from competition with wife and dance partner, Marina,he has become a specialist in Showdance choreography and choreographed for World and European Showdance Champions and more than forty World showdance finalists. He has also been a choreographer for theatre and T.V shows. His title was ‘There Is No Business Like Show Business’. This was a Showdance lecture.

Taliat opened by explaining he had googled the word ‘Show’ – A display for public entertainment was one answer. He stressed as a performer how important it is to be aware of what you are going to bring to the audience and ensure that you always deliver a clear message. This lecture contained so many tips which were very thought provoking and certainly showed Taliat’s passion and deep understanding for this dance form.

When it comes to Showdance there should always be a theatrical element. Dancing is not a science it is an art form and therefore dancers should always allow the quality of emotion to be perceived. Every single show should have clear three parts – the entrance to set the mood of the show must intrigue. The middle part of the show should portray a clear substance throughout. The ending has to be a definitive conclusion that should also be very clear to the story. The choice of music and the personal connection to the song is paramount. Body language needs to be understood. Actions speak louder than words, every movement and every gesture must reveal emotional content non stop. Selecting the type of body lan- guage to the music. The use of props must be carefully considered. Taliat ex- plained he often feels props are brought on without any real meaning or use and quoted a line from Chekov: ”One must never take a loaded rifle onto the stage if you don’t intend to fire it!” You must give a sense of what the story is about right from the initial entry.

He then introduced Mikhail Avdeev and Olga Blinova to dance their Waltz Showdance to the music of “Je Suis Malade” with the story line of – “she cannot live without him but he makes her feel miserable,” so the mix of love and despair has to be shown through the body language and to show the conflict of emotions. He analysed and translated some of the words and showed how he would choreograph a movement to fit. His lecture was brought to a conclusion by Mikhail and Olga performing their Show Waltz superbly.

The second lecturer was Rufus Dustin who commenced dancing at the age of five as he had been diagnosed with Hyper Activity Disorder and dancing was recommended to his parents. He commenced with Ballet and then continued into Ballroom and Latin. He danced as a soloist with the Boston Ballet when he was seventeen years old and then progressed to become a teacher with Fred Astaire dance studios. Because of his incredible energy after a busy teaching day he would go dancing at night in the Latin clubs. He then progressed to Roseland Dance palace, Copa Cabana and the Palladium and then met John Lucchase and Joe Nobels where he first learnt all the moves in Mambo which was the title of his lecture. His credits include American style Champion with Donna Van Camp,Inter- national Style Champion with Marianne Nicole and British and World Exhibition Champion with Sharon Savoy.

Rufus commenced by saying that he believes Mambo is the most misinterpreted Latin Cuban dance. He gave us the history of Mambo and its origins and stated that most Latin music is a fusion of Afro-Cuban. Mambo as we know it now is a direct result of a gifted musician named Machito who was the early leading band of 1937 even before the legendary Tito Puente. He brought his music from Cuba into Miami where his band could not get work and eventually moved North to New York and played for some time before they were allowed to play in ‘White only clubs’. His instinct was to bring the more primitive sound of West African music combined with European influence of orchestral Classical instruments. Bands at that time accented the ‘1’ beat. With the use of different drums Machito was the first person to set the increased importance on the ‘4,1’. Until that time dancers broke forward and backward on the 1 beat dancing steps on 1,2 and 3 and holding 4. With the addition of clave beats the style changed to breaking forward on 2 and making ‘4,1’ a slow beat.

Rufus stated “Music came first, humans created movement to express what the sounds gave them.” He then said music should be created from the centre of the body and not commenced from the feet. Weight should not get completely to every foot for the majority of the time. The timing of the knee straightening is different from International style Rumba and Cha Cha. The basic steps should always be designed to be con- stantly turning. The space between the partnership in hold should promote a look of intimacy.

Rufus explained that the basic skill of turning at the correct time in steps like the cross body lead are not evident enough as the influence of International style Rumba Hip Twist has become the favoured option. With Shirley Ballas he showed the correct way of the ladies turn emanating from the compact hold and reaction to the Man’s body turn. He then showed how awkward it is for the lady when she is trying to dance two step actions forward as in International style. His summary was “Maintain a compact base and all steps should be very small.”


Massimo Giorgianni & Alessia Manfredini

Massimo Giorgianni from Italy lectured next. Massimo commenced dancing at the age of nine and from the age of fourteen danced with Alessia Manfredini. Together they became eighteen times Italian Champions in Youth, Amateur and Professional. They were three times Amateur World Ballroom Champions and as Professionals they won the European. They also were successful in Showdance winning the World Championship title six times. They now reside near Milan and have three sons.

The title of his lecture was ‘Movements and Sensations’. Massimo opened by saying “To be aware of what you do, you have to open the sense of awareness.” We are made by our senses. We can see, we can hear, we can touch, feel, taste.” His target is that you have to be conscious of all senses when you dance.A step is just an option, it is a nothing. Timing is a sense, the experience to decide when to step should not be just timing.

He advised “Open your senses, you all have it, but we all forget it and don’t use the senses to make all the performance alive. He demonstrated a simple Waltz se- quence correctly but without really using all the senses. His quotes: “Don’t listen to your brain, listen to your body. To be aware, don’t worry about others, just do it – switch on, never switch off during any movement. Too much thinking takes over and that creates a problem. All movements should need a sense of fun, risk, enjoy- ment.” A group of eight dancers from the audience were asked to dance Basic Waltz Change Steps. He asked them to dance firstly without awareness – and then asked them to develop as a result of the physiology, and then show the moment when the senses are truly aware. It is not fun – it is not serious, it should be serious fun! Expression is not about smiling it is about feeling. Often we see empty expression and then it all looks false. He related to counting and how to count with expression, and not just speak numbers evenly.

Alertness, passion, sense of being alive. Be aware of what you really see and what people see when they look at you. Make the thoughts more beautiful and they will open your senses. To put life in movement with the power of all senses. Massimo finished by dancing alone move- ments from several dances showing both the simple fundamentally correct way and then how he would like to see those same movements breathe and really come alive. This lecture was superb for its knowledgeable content but also wonderful sensitive entertainment.

The final lecture was given by Paul Killick: Early in his dance career, Paul Killick was invited to join and study at the famous Royal Ballet School in London, but chose instead to enter into the world of competitive Ballroom and Latin American Dance. Among Paul’s partners were Inga Hass, Oksana Forova, Vibeke Toft, Karina Smirnoff, Ekaterina Lapaeva and Hanna Karttunen. Paul and Hanna danced together for five years and were consistently ranked as one of the best couples in the world. They won numerous world titles including the United Kingdom Open, International, World Series, World Masters, Dutch Open, United States Open, Asian Open, Kremlin Cup and Paul was many times British National Cham- pion with different partners. Paul retired from competitive Latin dancing in 2004.

Paul Killick now resides in Los Angeles running the Arthur Murray Beverly Hills Dance centre and together with his co-partner in competition organisation – Shirley Ballas they organise the Killick Klassik held annually in August in the USA. Paul stated that he deems in today’s dancing and together with his co-partner in competition organisation – Shirley Ballas, they organise the Killick Klassik held annually in August in the USA.

Paul Killick

Paul Killick

Paul stated that he deems in today’s dancing it is too much all about the steps. He believes there is often a lack of a real story between the man and lady. It should be a story of question and answer between them. He thinks of himself as a conductor and able to lead his lady. It should be about teamwork and he was brought up to believe that the man can make the lady look even better than she can on her own. He strongly feels there is too much solo dancing today and it should be about two people using each other’s body weight. He loves the situation of ‘partnering.’

Often he finds too much use of sensual movements from the Ladies that do not include the man. He likes the lady to be feminine and classy. The man has to be clear on what he wants from his partner. Paul informed us that he learned that the woman has to give herself completely to her man and then she can release herself from thinking and simply respond. Paul wants to be involved in every part of the movement that the lady dances.He illustrated that on a simple hip twist in Rumba dancing with Shirley Ballas. The theme followed on from Massimo as the whole lecture was about illustrating giving yourself to the dance. Paul also quoted, don’t think, simply sense. The hold – the man must always be round her and nothing should feel hard or cold in structure. He finished by dancing some basic Rumba with Shirley without frills or gimmickry but pure sensitivity and class and it was most enthralling.

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