Embassy BDFI Congress – 2017

EMBASSY BDFI congress 2017

by Hazel Fletcher

US Congress 2017

The BDFI congress is presented at the Embassy annually with kind permission of Brian MacDonald and family. The lecturers engaged are always judges attending the event. This year there were 3 lectures in American Rhythm, International Latin and then Ballroom.

Forrest Vance

Greg Smith, the BDFI Chairman, introduced the first lecture for American Rhythm by 5 times American Rhythm Champion Forrest Vance. Forrest began his dance career in 1979. He is now a studio owner, travelling adjudicator, consultant choreographer and coach as well as being a competition organiser. Among his credits are 15 times USA Ballroom Championship top teacher and producer of “Not Strictly Ballroom” dance videos. In 2010 he received the the Ford/Hanlon award, in 2011 the Dancesport series Top teacher and in 2012 he entered the Professional “Hall of Fame.”

Power was his subject. The biggest power, which he named the “IT” factor, is staying true to yourself. He stressed that power begins from understanding the role of the feet and legs, so true and also relative to International Ballroom and Latin. Forrest calls his feet his “little thrusters” and then went on to explain. He encouraged some of the audience to partake, originally for foot exercises. He said all dancers need to know how and why they use their feet to Dance any particular movement. He demonstrated how to place the feet and legs that they never appear ugly. He gave examples in Check lines, Press lines and a Walk. He stated that unfortunately he witnesses too many ugly positions during competitive events in Rhythm style.

American Style

In American style the best way is to project weight forward or sideways and then catch weight on the free foot, not moving the free leg outside the body. He showed this by advancing the lower body forward. An example was shown demonstrating the “Box step” – fall to the side into a side lunge, then the leg that is free the hip should be elevated. The same going forward. If the hip is elevated there should be no balance problems.

He showed the preparation of lining up the deportment, then clenching buttock muscle, pulling back the navel to the spine, followed by dropping the shoulder blades and then leaving the head back in line. Forrest explained that then the man shapes the frame and the lady should contour herself and settle to the mans frame. This set up lesson I abide by 100% and give every day, so the American Rhythm style from this aspect is no different at this stage to International Latin.

He believes that speed and power cannot be gained without first understanding the priorities of how to set up and how to move from foot to foot.
He demonstrated the difference between a Back Rock and a Back Break relating to weight distribution and foot placement.
Forrest’s final and most important reminder is that “Technique is mandatory.”

Nadia Eftedal

Next on was Nadia Eftedal. Her competitive career is most impressive including Open British Professional Latin Champion, U.K. Professional Latin Champion, Twice European Latin Champion, U.S. Open Professional Latin Champion, and Five times vice World Professional Latin Champion. During her career, Nadia has travelled extensively performing demonstrations, conducting lectures, and teaching trips throughout Asia, Europe, Australia and the USA. 
In May, 2005, Nadia was selected as the American representative to judge the prestigious Open British Championships, held in Blackpool, England which was the highlight of her adjudicating career.

“If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always have gotten” was a thought provoking opening statement. Nadia talked about the idea of having fun, what is play? Play is enjoyable, we do it for its own sake. Nobody is making you do it, it is voluntary, and it makes you feel good. When we are playing we lose all sense of time so we lose constrictions and feel free, we are ready to break the rules and improvise.

When you are playing you are having fun and do not want it to stop.
Nadia believes many dancers are too serious and intense whilst competing and it does not bring out the best in them. They are not allowing themselves to show that they are having fun and truly enjoying dancing.
She then explained how self imposed stress makes up a large part of the demons against successful competition result. “How do you respond to nerves within dance competition?” She suggested turning a stressful situation into play. She gave some exercises with the toes and making sounds to release tension, shake it out and practice smiling.
We have rules of how to use all anatomical aspects. We should question what are the rules, how can we use those rules, are there exceptions to the rules? Rules give us stress, play brings us back into the moment. Anticipation, surprise, pleasure and understanding all promote strength.
As examples of former Champions who excelled in showing the enjoyment that “Play is dance” and breaking expectations Nadia had assembled a power point presentation video of John Wood and Anne Lewis’ Quickstep Showdance from 1987. Then an excerpt of Massimo Giorgiani and Alessia Manfredini winning the World Showdance that included falling over twice and stunning the audience as to whether that had been a mistake or a planned surprise. Next a clip of Michael Malitowski and Joanna Leunis playing with time in their famous “Un Dos Tres” Samba show. This was followed by playing with balance by 13 times former World Champion Bill Irvine MBE dancing a Foxtrot basic sequence with a cup and saucer on his head. The lesson here was “Finding fun ways to practice the principles!” Unfortunately with the loss of time due to technical issues with the power point presentation the audience never got to see the grand finale of the lecture which Nadia informed me was to be a video clip of her and partner Johann Eftedal simply showing how much fun they were having dancing their Cha Cha that won them the most prestigious title of British Professional Latin Champions. I suspect that it can probably be found on You Tube!

Victor & Anastasia

The final lecture was 2017 British Open Professional Ballroom Champions Victor Fung and Anastasia Murayeva. Victor was born in Los Angeles and started dancing at 9 years old. Anastasia was born in St Petersburg, Russia and started dancing at the tender age of 3. She moved to the USA in 2005 and partnered up with Victor in November 2009. They won both the International Professional Ballroom Championship and Blackpool China in 2016 and hold the position of vice Champions in all other major titles.

Their dance objective is to enlighten and move people through the “Art of Dance” – to touch peoples hearts by bringing them into our passionate World of Dance, lift their spirits and allow them to experience the joy, ecstasy and zeal of Dance.

Victor commenced the lecture by explaining that they wish to share their ideas of what is important to them, he stated “We know the stats, ”they find that gets them to a certain level. Then it is about “How we do what we are doing?” Posture, position, frame, arm positions and then go are not enough for Victor, he needs to be inspired. He learned from Bill Irvine how to find music that can inspire you. Dancing is communication, he stated “the ladies are wonderful inasmuch that they can do whatever the man wants!”

“The man needs to make his lady feel wonderful in his arms.” He suggested “Don’t set the commencing position the same every time!” Victor believes he does not need whole choreographies, just little snippets to enjoy.

“Time is important” so slower music inspires him more. They then performed in a few different ways, all looking good to me. Then he stated that he keeps asking himself “can I do better?” Then he asked Anastasia “How was that?”
The next very wise comment was “Every step, every movement must come from the floor.” “Guys cannot multi-task!” More time, means time to think and perform. All moments should always be turning and constantly stretching. Never running, just dancing and having fun.
“Holding balance is the mistake, rebalancing is the trick.”
“Beautiful articulation of closing the feet impeccably.”
They then danced a Tango to “Fever” by Beyoncé. Victor talked a lot whilst they danced and yet the control of his breathing was most admirable.
Victor stated “The magic is in the mix, staccato and then moments of legato and softness.” Their final dance for the audience who were totally absorbed with the many tips they gained as education and beautiful dancing to entertain them was a Foxtrot to “Always on my mind” which I noted at only about 18 BPM. Superb control and fluidity was the impressive finale.

My lasting impression from all 3 lecturers was that without all discussing their themes, one predominant theme ran through the whole afternoon. The priority is good dance performance at every level is about showing you are having fun!


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