The 2018 Congress of Superstars

The 2018 Congress of Superstars

Ballroom Dancing, or DanceSport has a long history of beautiful movement and sometimes seemingly superhuman physical demands.  Even before the first dance competitions of the 20th century there existed a powerful need to become known as a “good dancer.”  That need has stood as an enigmatic lighthouse in the distance even as the rewards for being that “good dancer” become ever more tangible.  Dance prizes in the early 20th century were sometimes little more than the mere moment of election couples experienced as their names were announced as winners.  The most recent decade has turned into its own “Mirrored Ball” generation where winning the trophy is often only the beginning of a new or reborn career.  Yet with the change in the audience… the arrival of cameras… the addition of prize monies… and everything else, the growth of DanceSport has rested squarely on the ability of the human body to produce movement that is at once convincing, visually appealing, story-telling, and physically efficient.  No small order.  This track seems to run parallel to what has been seen in figure skating where double jumps were  a feat of excellence in 1948… Fast forward 70 years, and you’re nobody if you can’t produce two “quads” in a row.  Today’s ballroom dancer is a product of precision engineering honed by thousands upon thousands of hours of practice and coaching.

Photo courtesy Victoria Regan
The 2018 Congress of Superstars was a singular event bringing together some of the greatest minds in ballroom dance in a dramatically simple way.  The idea was to take the greatest minds in Dancesport and have them teach classes to dedicated competitors of all levels.   These were not private coaching sessions, but wide-open lectures in an arena where participants were free to ask questions, debate, react and above all, dance!  Champions Michael Chapman and Victoria Regan were the ones who took this idea from its inception and nurtured it through to fruition.  For her efforts, Miss Regan stated that she had wanted for years to assemble a congress of great dancers to educated dancers and elevate the art form.  Michael Chapman needs zero introduction.  When it comes to production, he is simply put, a genie.  He gets an idea…. utters a few words to a few select people, and POOF!  Magic happens.  For two days, “magic” is an understatement of a term.  In 48 hours, dancing was elevated to a new level.

The participants were as follows:

Photo courtesy Victoria Regan
Richard & Anne Gleave - Between the two of them with different partners, winners of more than 60 Ballroom Titles across Europe and around the world
Taliat Tarsinov - Russian National International Latin Champion, Russian National Ten Dance Champion, Soviet Union National Standard and Latin Show Dance Champion

Rufus Dustin - United States Cabaret Champion and World Cabaret Finalist

Toni Redpath - Four times undefeated US American Smooth Champion

Prof. Dr. Ruud Vermeij - Ph.D. in Movement Sciences and M.S. in Psychology

Shirley Ballas - 3 Times Open to the World British Champion, Only person to win British Open Latin Championship with two partners, Ten Times US Latin Champion, Several Time winner Teacher of the Year, and current judge on the UK hit TV program Strictly Come Dancing

As the lectures began, it became apparent that as a sport we have arrived at a level where it is time for the inner dancer in all of us to self-actualize.   New ideas were expressed in ways that made dancers of all experience levels think.  Not just “think” about dancing and its technique, but think about what they have to offer and what they bring to the dance floor.  Anne Gleave  mentioned the responsibilities of a lady in terms of “female lead.”  The class couldn’t help but laugh as husband Richard raised his eyebrows in feigned surprise.  He then continued an in depth discussion that could easily carry its own title: “What is Tango and what is Tango NOT?”

Rufus Dustin shared his professorial knowledge of competitive dance and its history while making a few pointed comments to “call out” actions on the competitive floor that are considered “undecorative” or “political.”  It may not have been a painless lecture, but the message was “gin” clear!

Dr. Vermeij and Shirley Ballas showed their ability to move the masses in two completely different yet harmonious ways.  In day one, Dr. Vermeij had the class experimenting with their ability to touch and move with objects that weren’t there… but there.  The concepts would have just as easily appeared in a pantomime class with Étienne Decroux or a performance class with Konstantin Stanislavski.  Shirley Ballas brought the group from a very slow, romantic Rumba in day one to a Jive in day two that was instantly synchronous.  To see the shapes form like ice melting in reverse was like watching a sculptor work with no hands.

Taliat Tarsinov found his way deep into the minds of the dancers on the floor with an in-depth discussion of each dancer finding his or her inner beauty.  Later, Toni Redpath found her way effortlessly into the dancers’ hearts by showing how 3 simple moves could be interpreted in so many ways.  In three moves, the audience saw birth, life, love, and death.  Souls were moved.

Photo courtesy Victoria Regan
Each lecture is worthy of its own article.  Call it Cliff’s Notes if you will.  Those will appear in future entries.  Words on a screen won’t do them justice, but they will preserve a kernel of the knowledge for those who weren’t fortunate enough to attend.  And perhaps some will be motivated to attend next year.   The first Discussion of Dance Technique was assembled by Dr. Vermeij himself in 2011.  It was sixty-four years before anyone ventured deep into the mind of the dancer.  Then, the discussion was just that— a discussion.  The 2018 Congress of Superstars took the discussion onto the dance floor where dancers could immediately benefit from the knowledge first hand.  The dance world is now looking forward to a new era of applied knowledge in a creative and practical environment.  With television shows like Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and Strictly Come Dancing, DanceSport has stepped into the public eye, and the world is watching.  Now is the time for us to explore within and let what the world came to see finally emerge!
Special Thanks to Arthur Murray Dance Studios
Copyright (c) 2018 - TonyPrado.com


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