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The Right Thing for Dancers

By Senior Vice President Todd Kirrane
Contributing Author
From Senior VP: "USA Dance needed to return to being the beacon..."

It’s long, but please read this.

As Senior Vice President of USA Dance, Inc. I have a deep understanding that even in the dance world, politics is a reality. It exists between competing coaches, studios, national federations, and international organizations with each individual doing what they can to advance their position as they seek to enact their vision to better the industry. As someone who does not make their living in the dance world, I accept this, but what I don’t accept is when politics moves away from the goal of the greater good and instead devolves into a power play to advance one’s personal interest to gain power for power’s sake.

There was a time when USA Dance stood out as a beacon of what the dance industry should be – advancing the industry for the benefit of our dancers. Period.

Pre-2010 the dance world was united with two predominant international organizations working cooperatively to advance Ballroom dancing. From 2010 to 2012 that all changed when these two international organizations split, and each one took steps to ban or restrict participation by dancers in the other events (one targeted athletes and the other targeted officials). These decisions were not made to enrich the dance community, but instead to enrich the power structure of the people at the top of each organization. The dance world is small, and each decided they wanted a bigger piece of the pie.

USA Dance, as silly Americans often do, decided to be a beacon for dancers and stood up to defend the Freedom to Dance AND the Freedom to Work. In my view, USA Dance made the right call because it sought to set aside politics and do what was right for the dancers. It was at that point that I became dedicated to this organization – because they were choosing dancers over politics and power.

While some stood with USA Dance, many decided to go along to get along, and both USA Dance and the DanceSport community suffered and splintered as a result.

Fast forward to 2021 and USA Dance was a shell of what it once was. Three things led to this: 1) certain members in the previous administration decided to embrace the politics of division and enacted official and unofficial rules to condense power, enrich friends, and ban perceived enemies; 2) external politics from the escalating ten-year arms race on the international level that forced dancers to choose one organization over another; and 3) the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down the industry overnight.

In 2021, I was asked to step up and take the # 2 position in the organization. It took a lot of convincing by several people – but I was convinced for one reason – the people doing the convincing agreed that USA Dance needed to return to being the beacon of doing the right thing for dancers and not for power. We couldn’t stop the pandemic, but we could stop the politics of division that had gotten even worse as there were now three predominant international organizations.

Over the last three years, USA Dance enacted rule changes nationally to embrace democracy and expand our governing structure, embrace different dance styles, create working relationships with other dance organizations, meet our obligations as the USOPC Recognized Sports Organization for DanceSport, grow our competitions, and support programs whether or not they were officially part of our organization because it was the right thing for the dancers and the dance community. We also sought to push this dancer-first agenda internationally, because it was the right thing to do. We stood with the Ukrainian Federation. We stood with Scotland, Wales, and England who were facing bans for political reasons. We stood with breakers who deserved the right to have a voice in the governing structure of the international organization overseeing their sport. We took steps to protect individual dancers from deceptive practices that could have cost them their ability to obtain Olympic glory. Essentially, we stood with dancers over politics.

Sadly, those in power decided to double down nationally and internationally, and while our organization is slowly growing nationally, by 2023 there were four predominant international organizations overseeing our shrinking dance community and USA Dance had a clear target on our back for not going along to get along.

As we sat around the table planning the 2024 USA Dance National Ballroom DanceSport Championships, a couple of us decided to make this our Alamo. To showcase our vision of an event that puts dancers first, that unifies/not divides professionals, promotes our partners to the fullest extent possible, and reminds the industry of what the dance world looked like pre-2010 before international politics ruined it.

We purposely selected a panel of adjudicators and officials who represented the best of the best nationally and internationally from all aspects of the dance world. We had five top international and countless national adjudicators from the WDSF and WDO. We had a Chair and Co-Chair with credentials in both the WDSF and WDO. We had USA Dance, NDCA, WDSF, WDC, Blackpool, Country Western, Salsa, etc. National and World Champions in both International and American styles. We had top adjudicators from our Collegiate and Junior DanceSport communities. We had regional and gender diversity. The panel was a total package and represented our vision for what the dance world once was and should be again – a unified community of dancers working for the benefit of all dancers.

Plus, we threw in amazing music, great sounding emcees, a video wall that rocked, a large competition and practice floor, a live stream, eight workshops, a social dance, two after-hour parties, great vendors, great sponsors, over 50 dedicated volunteers, a great venue, and lots of scholarship and prize money.

All we needed was the dancers to recognize our vision, show up, and meet our energy.

You did not disappoint! We had close to 800 competitors (ages 8 to 80) competing in just shy of 3000 entries. We had 40 colleges represented with a huge 16-team (96 couples) team match. We had big box and independent Pro/Am studios from Delaware to California. We had athletes from studios and teams from almost all 50 states including a formation team from Hawaii. We had returning national and world champions, up-and-coming future champions, and syllabus superstars. We had solo stars and teacher/student competitors. We even had social member night club fun dance competitive events. Our social dance overwhelmed the floor, and the workshops were full.

The competition was non-stop from 7 a.m. to past midnight each day and, while many of us volunteers were catching up on sleep, social media has been buzzing and WhatsApp/Text/Messenger/Emails were non-stop. While nothing is 100% perfect, we have come closer than I thought we could. Messages included:

  • “I wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers and my fellow colleagues. It was a very fun weekend with great positive energy.”
  • “It truly was the Best Nationals! The positive, electric energy not only filled the ballroom but was throughout the hotel.”
  • “I’m so impressed by how well the event was organized and had many thoughtful details to support dancers, so they have the best experiences.”
  • “I thought this was the most efficiently organized competition I’ve been to in years. It was also the most enthusiastic event with the excitement of the collegiates there which was a thrilling experience. The energy was amazing.”
  • “Best USA Dance Nationals yet! I love being a part of such an amazing group of people.”
  • “So many amazing memories!!!!! Enjoyed every minute of it!!! Happy to spend the weekend with such an amazing group of people!!!Congratulations on a successful Nationals.”
  • “A great organizing committee that brought together a stellar panel of adjudicators. Congratulations to an incredibly hard-working team working behind the scenes to bring together an event that is memorable for all.”
  • “A huge congratulations to USA Dance for being a shining light in our dancing world, bringing dancing together regardless of the federation. Dancers are dancers, colleagues are colleagues and good dancing is good dancing. I hope this competition can be an inspiration for others.”


Now I’m not naive enough to think the other shoe won’t drop, but when it does, I’ll take pride in knowing that once again USA Dance stood up and did the right thing for dancers and the dancers appreciated it. So, thank you all for any part, large or small, you played to restore USA Dance to beacon status of putting politics aside and simply supporting dancers for dancing’s sake.

Special thank you to Ken Richards, Renata Shvarts, and Daphna Locker for your leadership in putting this event together.

2024 National Champions!

Competitions 2024-25

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