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Dancing their way to the top

Dancing their way to the top

1 October 2010

After the very popular workshop they gave at the 2010 Worthing Congress, Vernon Kemp met up with Warren and Kristi while they were resting before the evening's demonstration. They shared some of their ideas about the ISTD dance world and also about how they approach their career in Dancesport.

A Background

Both Warren and Kristi’s mothers run dance schools. Kristi started dancing at the age of four and entered her first competition with a male partner before she was five years old. She has been competing ever since and Warren is only her third partner.

Warren took his first lesson when he was six and soon started taking medal examinations with the ISTD on a regular basis. This in turn led to a competitive career.

Thoughts on ISTD Examinations and Medallist Competitions

“The ISTD examination system is great because it provides reachable goals as opposed to dreams. There is always a fresh challenge to the dancers but in small increments. They move on to the next level in a gradual manner.

Medallist competitions are very successful and yet in open competitions there are not nearly the same numbers. Perhaps the success of medallist events is because they are more social in that everyone goes with their school, this creates a team spirit. If you haven’t achieved the result you had hoped for at least you have the great atmosphere of the day and the rest of your school to buoy you up. Everyone cheers for their friends so that they will cheer for you. It’s important to enjoy the day of the competition so that you want to go again. Unlike many open competitions your teacher is always at the medallist competitions with you. At open competitions one often feels isolated and parents have greater responsibilities.

Our son, Glenn, competes at both but because of the larger entries at medallist competitions he gets the experience of dancing more rounds and having to dance his way through more competitors... this is excellent training for when he competes in a major international event.”

The Differences in Training Children in Estonia and UK

“In the UK children in open competitions have mainly private lessons. In Estonia these would be something very special, maybe only twice a year. Instead each child pays a monthly fee and gets four or five lessons a week, in small groups of five or six couples. In Estonia children only choose one sport to pursue whether it be dancing or tennis or football, unlike in the UK where many children follow a host of activities.

The advantage of working with a small group of couples is that you can use different couples to illustrate different points. It’s better when children see contemporaries demonstrate. Each couple will have something good to show whether it is foot usage, contact, shape or whatever. Group work has an important social aspect, it’s fun learning with your friends.”

The Importance of Practice

Both felt that practice is paramount to producing good dancing. How they approach practice depends on what else is happening in their schedule.

On a normal day they drop their son off at school at half past eight before going straight to the studio to practise, often until it’s time to pick up Glenn at the end of the school day. In the evening they teach and round off the day doing Finals practice after ten o’clock. On other days they travel to London for their lessons.

When travelling overseas practice has to fit in with their schedule. For example in February and March this year they participated in the Asian tour – this consists of six to eight competitions over two to three weeks in a number of different countries. As well as being excellent experience taking part in so many high level competitions over a short period of time, there is the added incentive of good prize money. At these times they will practise just about anywhere and at any time... even in hotel corridors! I remember doing the same thing in Japan but given the higher usage of CCTV cameras these days, I wonder what the security officers make of this. Perhaps they know that all dancers are slightly crazy!

They feel even though there is a busy competition schedule at this time they still want to keep it ticking over, for them this is important in terms of confidence. They try to develop all the time; their goals being further than the next competition.

“It’s important to keep looking at the larger picture, to improve one’s dancing, not to just worry about your result in the last or next competition. Of course results are important but more important is how you danced.”

Physical fitness is of course a necessity for today’s competitor, Kristi enjoys running whilst Warren is happier working on the machines in the gym. Most of their fitness training however is through dance itself.

They feel they are so lucky to have the same goals and a similar approach to them. This is probably a result of them both always having dance in their lives.

They have so many similarities in their background and have the same ways of training. Both agree that although they are passionate about dancing, this is balanced and put into perspective by family which is most important in their lives.

Dreams and Aspirations

Warren hopes in the future to develop the potential of the family business seeing himself as the next generation; as well as his parents, his grandmother danced and, of course, their son makes the fourth generation. Kristi is looking forward to a large family eventually and career wise, teaching competitive dancing to children. She also comes from a large dancing family; she is one of six children. Her mother danced with her uncle and were National Amateur Champions of the Baltic States before her mother started a family. Two of her sisters have won the Under 21 International and her brother has already been a semi-finalist... of course there’s no pressure on him this year! I asked Glenn whether he had a dancing dream: in the three years he has left as a Juvenile, he would like to get to the very top!

A couple of hours later we were all back in the Assembly Rooms where Warren and Kristi won over the knowledgeable crowd with their beautifully presented demonstration; particularly pleasing was the artistic response to the music. However it is their professionalism and maturity of approach which is becoming something of a trademark for them.

Vernon Kemp

This article appeared in DANCE magazine, issue 453.

 

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