DURING A RECENT trawl through the back alleys of YouTube, I found a few gems – among them, a four-minute cut of a Donnie Burns lecture.
Let me present a clip or three of the unconventional thoughts therein. Here’s one about teaching dancesport:
“The strange thing about the dancing world is that it is the only world I know where the customer is always wrong … Don’t do this, don’t do that, you’ve to do this, you’ve have to do that… the customer is always wrong. Because when the customer is right, you have nothing else to say, your business is finished.”
Relating that to an earlier quote in the same video, I get the impression that Burns is stressing something that many trainers (the lecture was meant for them), in their alacrity to achieve perfection in their couples, often forget:
The mind of the athlete. The need to nurture it.
Perhaps I am leaping to a conclusion here, but anecdotal evidence from a number of dancers I have spoken to about this suggests that the mental makeup of the trainee is not something most trainers see as a priority. Some time ago, on the eve of a big competition, I happen to speak to a professional couple who had just finished their final lessons. What the lady had to say illustrates my point:
“We had a rubbish day today. Our teachers were not happy. They say we are not dancing like champions.”
Some food for thought there for dancers and trainers alike, I think. If there is no positive frame of mind, there is no athlete.
Burns speaks more about the relationship between the trainer and the dancers – rather, the contribution of the trainer to the competitive success of a couple:
“No teacher is capable of telling the dancer enough information to win. I think that most people who win, it is 10, 20, maybe 40, maybe even 50 or 60 per cent is what they hear from the teacher in a lesson. And the rest is their own input. I don’t think teachers make champions, actually.”
What a teacher can do, Burns says, is contribute, help the couple along:
“I think some [teachers] are good at guiding people through the water, to avoid the rocks … I think most of the creativity is within that person. And the best I offer anybody is their own style.”
Towards the end, he returns to the power-of-the-mind theme, with a burst about imagery:
“I think the most important thing for a dancer and the couple is to visualise … have a fantasy about how they are going to dance that competition – all five dances. Now that is not something you teach really.”
Let me leave you with that. If you would like to pick up the commentary, the comment box is yours – enjoy.