US Congress 2012

BDFI Congress At The Embassy Ball

Hazel Fletcher reports from Irvine, California

One of the lecturers at the BDFI Congress, Sammy Stopford, is pictured. Photograph by Ron Self.

“What makes American Smooth so special and unique?” This was the opening line of his lecture. The answer is the influence of Ballroom, Latin, Broadway, Jazz, a melting pot of all other styles of dance. He used Sergey and Anna a Rising Star Smooth Champion and Rhythm finalist. He explained that firstly one needs to require a detailed understanding of Swing, Shape, Sway, Posture and Frame etc from the International Ballroom style. He asked Sergey and Anna to dance basic steps of their own Foxtrot choreography and then showed how to develop it with a Ballroom influence and then Latin. Then a further development was shown incorporating Broadway Style which is made up of beautiful Theatre imagery, Jazzy movements and sometimes exaggerated expressive movements. It can be very clichéd, and at times almost cheesy in depiction. Further exploration of extreme arm movements made it more complete. Even musical theatre’s use of exaggerated faces can actually enhance. The track “Fever” by all different artists was played in order to create different moods so that even the same piece of choreography could look very different if interpreted musically.

Jonathon suggests that dancers wishing to perform in this style research widely and even be unafraid to steal and then insert their own individual style into it. His love of Smooth is generated because there are less restricted rules compared with Ballroom or Latin. The appeal is freedom to find out who you are as a dancer, do not be afraid to fail, be yourself and explore what you do in dancing. Very sound advice to any participant, and a most interesting lecture!

MERYEM PEARSON is a former Olympic Skater and competitor in Latin American and Ballroom. She has been awarded the Carl Alan Award and is now Vice-President of the CDF(Canadian Dancesport Federation.) She remains most active as a coach and was the founder of the famed competition “La Classique Du Quebec.” “IN AND OUT MOVEMENT” was the theme for her lecture. Connection with a partner first was instilled in Meryem as an Ice Dancer and further developed by her participation in competitive Ballroom and Latin American. She used Canadian Champions Maurizio Vescovo and Andra Vaidilaite to dance a few basic Rumba steps, namely “Open Hip Twist to Fan and Hockey Stick.” She asked the audience to watch the commencement of allowing the weight toward each other before opening apart. “The gentleman should allow the lady to dance,” she reminded the men in the audience and that “us ladies can dance!” Meryem believes great dancing is all about “Give, take and to receive using body weight.” The fluidity of the body of each half of the couple should be constantly moving. The same basic step was then performed without the “in and out movement” which was still beautifully correct but more sterile. A variation including swivels for the lady was then demonstrated highl ight ing two individual people and different styles of dance, showing each dancer’s moment of “invite and refuse,” varying the body weights to show real Man/Woman imagery.

The Slingshot movement which is the Man lunging to his left and then the lady spinning or turning from his right side to his left with certain speed was explained. Meryem quoted “she goes when she wants, not when he wants!” I particularly loved the suggestion that it is less about “Lead and Fol low” and more about communication together. Meryem loves all the quiet moments, after the speed and explosion. Another gem of a quote: “Even the stops never really stop – they must always continue like the music!” The couple need to trust each other. This lecture was delivered with a great in depth of understanding and sensitivity and a lovely expressive French accent that was most charming.

GIAMPIERO GIANNICO has been a Blackpool, International and World finalist. He represented the USA in the Blackpool team match. In 1994 he was the Italian Amateur Ten Dance Champion. He danced in his lecture with his last competitive partner Anna Mikhed. “THE IMPORTANCE OF TOUCH” was the theme for this Ballroom lecture. Giampiero’s opening remark was “If a man makes a woman feel uncomfortable, she will not want to dance with him!” He demonstrated the subtle difference of making everything correct and yet without due care for the lady and then how to be totally sensitive to the lady’s needs. He stressed that it is important to understand from where everything developed from day one. He stated “If you try to change the principles you will fail.” “When a man invites his partner, he should be asking the permission of a lady to dance with him.”

He showed how to take up the Ballroom Connection with natural principles of real everyday life. The connection hands should be as close to natural holding hands as possible. He explained the original idea of the lady’s left hand on the man’s right arm should be giving the message to the man of “Not yet!” It was most appreciable to witness how Giampiero used real life stories and imageries to give great meaning to whatever one does whether in approach of set-up of position and connection or actual dance movement. For example he quoted “Tango is a man who plays hard to get!” He illustrated this with the story being most obvious in dancing a Spanish Drag. This was a lecture where it was lovely for those present to enjoy the fabulous dancing of a couple that many deemed had retired too early!

SAMMY STOPFORD hails from Manchester, England and now resides in London. He has been a multi Latin Champion as a Professional winning both with Shirley Ballas and later Barbara McColl. Apart from a busy coaching and judging career he is the WDCAL Chairman and is also the organiser of the fantastically successful and yet relatively new World Open WDC AL three day Festival in Paris Disney held annually every December. Sammy commenced his lecture by admitting that he is slightly contrary. He has a lot of theories about dancing and competing. He stated that much of what he sees he is not

happy with. He thinks that many men overlead, push and pull the lady on and off her feet. He agreed with Giampiero that history need be studied. Sammy invited Shirley Ballas to partner him for the lecture. He then took a chair, sat astride it facing backwards, and Shirley danced with the chair as a proof that ladies do not actually need to be led; they can use the chai r to move themselves. This message Sammy feels that men need to understand in order to create correct partnering. He also stated his dislike of so many men dancing with their ladies and ignoring them and looking everywhere else. Sammy stated that the Rumba Walk is deemed the most difficult movement in Latin to conquer by many. He explained that if you can walk naturally with a heel lead as in normal life just a small change in ankle shaping plus the retention of toe contact to the floor produces a Rumba walk with actually very little difficulty! He thinks that many dancers make the mistake of thinking that when receiving new information if they understand and can do it immediately it must be wrong, and therefore if they cannot do something immediately and it needs an excess of time to practice that must be correct! His advice is “Get rid of the tension, don’t load yourself with a crutch, simply listen to the music and just move to the music in order to dance!”

The BDFI wish to thank Brian McDonald for al lowing and arranging this BDFI congress to take part in the Ballroom during the busy four days of the Embassy Dancesport Championships.

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