Donnie Burns - 14 times World Professional Latin American Champion.
Donnie stressed the importance of " messages" and " partnering" in transforming an atheletic dancesport into a sophisticated form of art. "Breathe life into this art by dancing to the messages. Do not be so engrossed with the details of the choreography and get completely off ! "
"Ballroom dancing is Not simply a dancesport !" Donnie strongly believed, " it is a very sophisticated form of art." " Listen to the music," Donnie repeatedly emphasied, " listen to the messages. And decode these messages into all the movements that you execute."
Another important factor which Donnie stressed is "intent". Every movement must convey the message and the intent. These two factors will give life and character to the dance.He illustrated these important ingredients in the Paso Doble. The matador is flirting with death and he must portray that intensity in the dance.
It is horrendous to see dancers grinning and amusing themselves. It is completely out of place. It is like someone attending a solemn funeral and grinning away in the midst of a very sorrowful and painful moment. It is utterly horrendous !
In the Cuban Rhumba, the way the man caresses the lady will either enhance the sensuality of the dance or strangle the dance to death. The intent must convey the message of the dance and this must be portrayed accurately in the movements. The intent must also be coupled with strong emotional and passionate movements with explicit musical expression.
It requires total commitment and concentration. "And," Donnie added, " the Rhumba is a lady's dance." It is a very sensual and sexy dance. The couple must convey that message to the audience with the right intent embedded in every movement.
Another very important factor is "partnering." If a male dancer completely ignores his lady partner and vice versa, it is like doing the American Line Dancing. Forget about competitive ballroom dancing. Partnering is the essential ingredient in ballroom dancing. It is unique and it is irreplaceable - even by the best of digitalized model.
If a couple dances alone for more than 15 bars of the Samba or any other dances without touching one another, they better have their choreography changed. "Otherwise," Donnie stressed, " they will dance themselves out of the competition floor in the first round ! "
So, dance with your partner! Involve your partner. Caress your partner. Hold your partner in a very passionate manner. Show intent in every movement. Show concern and care. And your dance will come alive! That is the importance of partnering. And it transforms dancesport into a sophisticated form of art. It is not about beating the clock or breaking the record. It is about passion and art in a very elegant manner.
How do you judge ?
The moment you step into the dance floor, you are being judged. The way you walk, the way you hold your partner, the way you present your partner and the way you interact with other fellow competitors. "The moment you put a number tag on your back," Donnie stressed very strongly, " you are a competitor. And a competitor is like a gladiator in the arena."
Charisma. Skill and foot-work. Character, passion and partnering. Presentation. Choreography and execution of movements. Everything is tied up in a chain - there is no single factor that contributes to the success of a champion couple. Everything is taken into account. On the dance floor and off the floor ! Even in the preliminaries and in the practice sessions, some judges do take into considerations your mannerisms and behaviour !
And, you are still being judged at the end of the dance .How you present your lady. How you thank you partner or curse your partner. And how you walk out of the dance floor - happily or furiously. The adjudicators can still change their rankings even at the end of a dance ! So, if you want to be a champion and be judged a champion, you must dance and behave like a champion always, everywhere and everytime.
How do you create power ?
Be on your feet in full balance and stillness. Drive that energy into you feet and on to the floor.The key word is stillness and that enhances the speed and power. Even in stillness, the body is preparing to move into the next step in a continuous process. Donnie illustrates this continuous process in the ChaChaCha.
The "Hold" in ChaChaCha is often misconceived. The "Hold" is not a " Stop" and it should be " Dissolution Into The Next Step." So, it should be " ChaChaChaCha.."
"Words are dangerous in ballroom dancing," Donnie stressed repeatedly. "They are powerful tools and they can help or destroy you. So be very careful with words!"
It was a very entertaining afternoon workshop with Donnie and Nicole. And for all those who were fortunate to attend, it was a most memorable and most beneficial session. Words of wisdom and experience from the world's number one Latin American dancer. Thank you Donnie and Nicole for a most exciting afternoon.