On Technique

Donnie Burns MBE talks about misconceptions of “boring technique” and how fundamental principals will only make you the better dancer

By Donnie Burns M.B.E.

I have been requested to contribute to the (already fine and first-class ) contributions by Education Masters in the WDC Education Department by Prof. Dr. Ruud Vermeij and in so doing, give a direction in sync.

Technique is something with which I suppose the late great Walter Laird is synonymous. There are some top class definitions and interpretations already contributed. I wish to add the following:

There is no value I believe in the somewhat popular misconception that technique in some subliminal way = boring, or even shares a direction in parallel. This is an indication of either,

  • a) Fundamental misunderstanding of the technique in question, and/or
  • b) A fundamentally flawed technique in itself (Granted, one may think less likely but not at all unknown).

The more diligent and brilliant techniques you see, were actually written as an analysis of what the brilliant dynamic musical and exciting dancers did, rather than the converse. This is a crucially important point in decisions as to stylistic influence, mechanical options and the ever-discussed… speed.

Put simply, brilliance of fundamental principles will only ever allow more power, more speed, more options better balance and a much more commanding presence and performance as an inherent part of dance. If one has the impression that an application of, or the general attention to, technique will somehow be a condom on the organ of your freedom of expression then something other than small is wrong!

The biggest mistake a dancer can make in a live performance is to think.”

The best and most potent performers of all time whom I have witnessed all had an amazing technical and precision-based ability. From Michael Jackson to Sylvie, their ability to thrill us is fundamentally rooted in their undoubted knowledge, skill and precision. There is even also a technique for performance seemingly and paradoxically based on the mantra that “The biggest mistake a dancer can make in a live performance is to think”! This is not as confusing upon deeper analysis as one initially may perceive. The thoughts, the preparation, the scripting, the mechanics, choices, should all be so prepared and drilled that the live performance is a combination of auto-pilot and live improvisation due to music, atmosphere, energy, lighting, and a plethora of many many other factors on the night and on the moment. Put simply yet again as I always say, “If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail”.

It is perhaps the failure of this particular dimension of technique which has served its master so poorly and given a rather jaundiced and unkind popular image of the core.

I feel that I must take this opportunity to thank all for contributing time effort and knowledge and also to record my gratitude to any who read this.

Donnie Burns M.B.E.

A contribution for consideration/debate by avid readers and contributors to the WDC AL Education department under the stewardship of Professor Dr. Ruud Vermeij.

One of the issues that has always intrigued me is that of winning. How much (or little) is this inherently existent in the DNA of the individual/couple concerned and how much of it may be honed or cultivated by the trainer/teacher/coach? 

Indeed one may even start further back by asking the fundamental premise, what is the primary motivation for competing? Ruud and I have ping-ponged a debate on this on and off over the years. It depends whether one wishes primarily to compete on an artistic journey, enjoy oneself, creatively feel moving on and have the possibility of winning as almost a subliminal side show which may or may not but hopefully occurs.

Alternatively, another logic perhaps may be that “as soon as I put a number on my back my immediate and direct priority is to win “and hopefully of course one intends with great intensity to do so by increasing the artistry and performance and all of the other facets which these entail. 

What I am getting at is a question more of the emphasis and priority, what is at the front and what is at the back of the brain.

I feel at this point in time it would hamper debate for me perhaps to divulge my direct experiences and thoughts (because they may be different, might they not?) and would rather prefer to hear everyone’s input first. It is definitely a subject which I feel to be of undoubted significance but seldom addressed. I welcome of course the thoughts and input of anyone who is interested and has the desire so to do. Just use the comments box below to add your thoughts to the discussion. Respectfully submitted.
Donnie Burns MBE

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