American Dancer Staff Author interviews 10x World Champion Ashli Williamson
American Dancer Staff Author interviews 10x World Champion Ashli Williamson

Ballroom Tips and Tricks – 10x World Champion Addresses Partnership

By Anna Najarian
Staff Author
Interview by Alessandro Scalora
Ashli Williamson: Success is not overnight

We’ve brought 10-time World Champion Ashli Williamson, who was born and raised in Burbank, California, to American Dancer for the next episode of our Do’s and Don’ts series.  Her topic is Partnership

One of the things that is either a hit or miss in this sport, as with any other aspect of life, is the relationship to the person with whom you share the journey – your dance partner! Oftentimes overlooked on the outside, a DanceSport partnership, whether it is in the style of American Smooth, Rhythm, International Latin, or Standard, is a very complex endeavor.  This is true both in a competitive and social environment.  It takes many years of long practices, training, trials, and tribulations to completely get a sense for your second half.

Learn more about Ashli’s first impressions of her longtime partner — Bjorn, travel experiences at a young age (moving solo from Perth, Australia to Denmark for a partnership at the age of 16), and their endeavors as a couple through the years.  

Oftentimes as dance partners, we must make sacrifices for each other, orient our goals with the other in mind, and be willing to get to know them well enough to find out the best way to support them in any given situation. In this piece, hosted by Alessandro Scalora, we explore the making of a World Champion!  Here are some important pointers we learned from Ashli, regarding a successful partnership:

  1. Intentional Communication: Make sure you both are on the same page about your goals, ambitions, and expectations of one another.  This goes without saying for any partnership, but since the success of a DanceSport partnership is crucial and dependent on both parties, this is all the more important.  Regarding open communication, Ashli says, “You always need to be in a neutral state (in other words, not hot-headed) in order to have a proper discussion about something.” Otherwise, the discussion is not productive and ends up doing more harm than good.
  2. Remember that the person in front of you is completely different, and that’s OK.  You each have different aspects that are equally as important for success.  One person may be good at musicality; another may be better at technical elements.  In the end, this is what balances the partnership and helps create unity – something that is very highly regarded.
  3. Don’t control the partnership: Sorry, but there is no “my way or the highway” in this partnership, contrary to popular belief (and Frank Sinatra).  One person alone cannot decide what is best for the couple; both parties must be involved and have a conscious say.  As humans, it can sometimes feel like our brains are programmed to automatically say “NO” when faced with a new suggestion, especially coming from your partner.  When faced with this problem, Ashli and Bjorn utilize this rule: “Pretend to like it for 15 minutes.” 
  4. Remember that everyone starts somewhere – success is not an overnight feat!  As one of Ashli’s mentors said, “You lose more than you win.  This is normal.  It takes a huge initial number of competitions – attempted and lost – to win maybe one or two of them.  Everyone remembers the wins, but no one talks about the losses that were part of the journey to get there.  These are just as, if not more, important to the process.” 
  5. Be patient and trust the process: Longevity and commitment are both key to a sustainable partnership.  Take the time and commitment to get to know the person in front of you to learn the best ways to support them, which ultimately will benefit both the relationship, and you.  Ashli said it best: “I wouldn’t trade the process and the memories — we’ve had 20 years together as a DanceSport partnership — just for the titles and trophies.  In the end, the relationship is worth so much more.”

To conclude our second episode of this series, we brought on a very special surprise guest for Ashli.  Watch the interview to find out who it is!  They met at an interesting place and immediately bonded over their similar viewpoints! 

“Getting to know your dance partner over the years, in a good standing relationship, is the most beautiful thing in the world!” summarized Alessandro.

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