Kelly Batchelor is an active competitive DanceSport member of USA Dance and the co-organzer of the Chicago DanceSport Challenge, a USA Dance National Qualifying Event held annually in late October. Kelly and her partner, Alan Burns who also happens to be her husband, currently hold the #36 spot in Senior 1 Standard and the #41 spot in Senior 2 Standard on the WDSF world leader board. Kelly sat down with The Dancing Housewife earlier this year to share her thoughts on World Dance Sport Federation
On November 28, 2016, The Dancing Doc and I officially announced our decision to stop dancing pro-am in order to focus exclusively on our amateur partnership. [Related post: The Story of the Dancing Housewife and the Dancing Doc] 2017 ended up being a good year for us. Our biggest news: we jumped from Syllabus to Open.
In order to create a level playing field, USA Dance, Inc. categorizes amateurs by dance style, age and skill level. Think of it as comparing apples to apples. Events are contested in four major dance styles (smooth, rhythm, Latin and standard), with age classifications ranging from the very young to the young at heart and everyone in between, and six skill levels or proficiencies (bronze, silver, gold, novice, pre-championship and championship) in two main divisions, Syllabus and Open.
Syllabus level competitors must adhere to lists of fixed figures or syllabi specific to each dance (that’s 19 total across the four styles) and are restricted to mostly closed choreography. Syllabus proficiencies increase consecutively in difficulty from bronze to silver to gold. Official invigilators scrutinize Syllabus couples closely to ensure they are 1) executing only choreography allowed by the proficiency level in which they are dancing and 2) are not violating any of the supplemntal USA Dance Approved Figures, Elements & Restrictions (“The Rules”).
Except for lifts being prohibited, there are no restrictions in the Open division. The three Open proficiencies, also increasing consecutively in difficulty, are novice, pre-championship and championship.
Proficiencies are assigned based on the number of proficiency points competitors accrue in prior seasons (topic for another blog). The process is essentially in place to prevent sandbagging, however, couples are always free to compete higher than their proficiency points mandate. For various reasons many elect to do just that. In fact, The Dancing Doc’s and my rapid progress from bronze to gold had far less to do with actual skill than it did with our desire to dance the full range of American smooth and rhythm dances (also a topic for another blog). Likewise, our performance this past year did not require a move, but we elected to bump ourselves up the ladder anyway. Don’t misunderstand me. We’re not cocky, although one might argue writing and publishing this blog post with the idea that anyone might actually be interested in reading it suggests otherwise. Still you won’t find us strutting around like we’re all that (at least not outside the confines of our walk-in closet) and we have a fairly realistic perception of our shortcomings. We’re the first to admit we don’t belong in Open just yet so you may be wondering what predicated the jump?
By February of 2017 our post-heat summoning to the invigilator’s table had grown in frequency to the point of being criminal. You name a rule and we broke it. In fact, we got slapped with so many warnings for one particular type of infraction at the Manhattan Amateur Classic, I’m pretty sure it was renamed The Dancing Housewife Rule. Or The Dancing Doc Rule. The thing is, I am not a rule breaker. Never have been. Call me a goody-two-shoes (you wouldn’t be the first), but I enjoy following rules. It’s who I am plus, having been warned ad infinitum, the Doc and I were forced to confront the likelihood of our placements dropping or even being disqualified as penalties for future infractions. I may be a goody-two-shoes, but I’m a competitive goody-two-shoes. In desperation and with Nationals looming in the not-so-distant-future, we enlisted the help of a local USA Dance invigilator.
Mister-I-for-Invigilator assessed our choreography to identify areas of non-compliance with The Rules. There were a few easy fixes, like removing what could be (mis)construed as introductions from our Viennese Waltz and Bolero, along with eliminating picture lines, excessive turning and prohibited styling embellishments, but our biggest problem was the amount of open choreography we were executing.
Partners may not completely separate. Open Work is limited to single or double hand holds,
Shadow Positions, and may not last for more than eight (8) consecutive measures before regaining normal hold for a minimum of two consecutive bars. Open work may not comprise more than 25% of any routine.
We never completely separated, but unbeknownst to us, the Dancing Doc and I were executing connections which constituted open combinations in flagrant excess of the allowable eight-measures-at-a-pop criterion and rarely, if at all, punctuated them with two measures in closed frame. Our liberal interpretation of open versus closed choreography is probably rooted in our early careers as pro-am competitors in NDCA-sanctioned events which allows shadow as well as single and double hand holds with no measure restriction in closed syllabus events. Still, the violations were persistent and since Ignorantia juris non excusat, we decided (on the advice of Mister-I-for-Invigilator) to wave the white flag and move to Open. It was simply the path of least resistance. Or so we thought.
In June we began competing novice and pre-championship with what the Doc called Open-lite routines in a field of very strong opponents. We took our lumps, but by some miracle managed to qualify for 2018 Nationals. Since there’s no point to competing if you’re not going to be competitive, we’ve spent the last few months upping our choreography and hammering away at technique. I wouldn’t classify our routines as full open yet, but we’re getting there. It takes time. To be exact, it takes grinding… about two hours a day, five or six days a week and on the seventh day The Dancing Housewife rests (or collapses in exhaustion while watching ballroom dance videos on YouTube with The Dancing Doc to glean helpful hints).
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a personal essay. It’s not a question of inspiration. I simply haven’t had the time to compose anything blog-worthy. Now you know why.
Copyright © 2017 The Dancing Housewife All Rights Reserved
What’s up with the feud between NDCA and USA Dance? The rift is so polarizing you get a different answer depending on whom you ask so I decided to find our for myself. No biased opinion here… no impudent #NotMyGoverningDanceOrganization… just the facts. I promise.
Believe it or not, the first world championship of ballroom dance took place in 1909. The event was considered unofficial due to a lack of rules and ill-defined, inconsistent protocol for ranking and judging couples. Fast forward to September 22, 1950. A group of folks, compelled by the idea of establishing a set of standards for an official world championship, gathered at a meeting organized by Phillip J.S. Richardson in Edinburgh, Scotland. In doing so, they conceived the International Council of Ballroom Dancing, which would eventually become today’s World Dance Council (WDC).
In 1957 a distinction was drawn between professional and amateur dancers and the formation of a new governing body, the International Council of Amateur Dancers, ensued. The ICAD sanctioned amateur competitions and served the needs of amateur dancers. After several iterations, it was renamed and is known today as the Word DanceSport Federation (WDSF).
Similar efforts to standardize competitive ballroom dance were taking place in the United States. In 1948, the National Dance Council of America (NDCA), originally called the National Council of Dance Teacher Organizations, sprung from a concerted effort to foster cooperation by and among professional dance teachers. This was stimulated in large part by the burgeoning Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire dance studios. It was accepted into the WDC as a member organization in 1962 and has been representing the interests of American dance professionals in worldwide matters since. The NDCA is widely accepted as the authoritative body for professional and pro-am dance in the United States. In addition to sanctioning competitions, the NDCA has been certifying adjudicators and scrutineers since 1973 and holds the exclusive right to choose the judges and competitive couples who represent the United States in all World Professional Championships.
USA Dance, originally named the United States Amateur Ballroom Dance Association or USABDA, was organized in 1965 as a byproduct of the charge led by ballroom dance champion, Normand Martin, and a faction of interested amateurs to petition the Olympic Committee to classify ballroom dance as a sport for inclusion in the Olympic games. USA Dance is recognized as the official governing body for DanceSport (a.k.a competitive ballroom dance) by the United States Olympic Committee, the Amateur Sports Act of the United States Congress and the WDSF, of which it has been a member since 1987. USA Dance represents the interests of American amateur ballroom dancers in all matters domestically and internationally.
The WDC and WDSF along with their American affiliates set standards, sanctioned competitions and evolved to serve the specific needs of their distinct professional or amateur members. Their relationships were harmonious and mutually beneficial until 1997.
Promoting ballroom dance as an Olympic sport has not been an easy undertaking. After decades of negotiating, the WDSF agreed to numerous stipulations made by the International Olympic Committee, including drug testing of athletes, defining and implementing criteria for a more objective system for adjudication and stringent invigilation. In return, on September 4, 1997, the IOC recognized the WDSF as the official international governing body of competitive ballroom dance. This means only competitors who are members of the WDSF and its affiliate organizations (like USA Dance) would be eligible to represent their countries at the Olympic games, should DanceSport ever be added as an event.
In spite of this IOC decision being a long-awaited victory for the DanceSport community, members of the WDC resented potential exclusion from Olympic competition and after festering for a decade, responded by admitting amateurs and creating their own competitive amateur division. Three years later in 2010, the WDSF retaliated by accepting professional members and likewise creating its own professional division in. Suddenly, both organizations were competing for participation and financial support from the same pool of dancers. The situation became even more contentious when the WDC and WDSF imposed penalties on athletes and judges who supported the opposing organization.
Fortunately, there are currently no repercussions for American dancers who choose to compete in both USA Dance and NDCA sanctioned events. However, in 2014 the NDCA announced it would deny membership renewal to judges, scrutineers and other types of licensed officials who work at non-NDCA events.
While not specifically targeting USA Dance, the intent was clear. Essentially anyone working a USA Dance event would be kicked out of the NDCA. A handful of judges ignored the announcement, which prompted the NDCA to issue THIS stern signature addendum to the membership renewal application at the end of 2015.
It was an effective, if not a little insidious, method of forcing licensed officials to choose the NDCA’s side in the quarrel. NDCA events are more expensive for competitors than USA Dance events, but they are also much more lucrative for judges, scrutineers, staff and pros. People need to eat, pay their mortgages and buy shoes for their kids, so the mass exodus of judges and officials from the USA Dance circuit is no surprise. Poorly contested Teacher/Student events (the only competitive opportunities USA Dance makes available to professionals), however, has been somewhat of an unexpected consequence. Although pros are not required to pledge allegiance to the NDCA in the same manner as licensed officials, the hostile nature of the signature addendum has left pros reluctant to enter USA Dance Teacher/Student events, in many cases citing fear of negative backlash.
Unfortunately the strained dynamic between the WDC and WDSF has seeped across the pond and THAT is what’s up with the feud between the NDCA and USA Dance.