04 April 2016

In the world of Ballroom Dance, there are two main organizations that run all the major competitions in the world: the WDC and the WDSF. Formerly, these organizations worked together, but currently they aren't getting along, which causes a lot of problems for competitors, judges, and the dance community as a whole. By the end of this post, you should have a clear understanding of how competitive Ballroom Dance works on a global scale.

In the Beginning

Ballroom Dance competitions have existed for over 100 years now, and in 1950 a group of people came together to try to figure out a way to organize a world championship. In doing so, this group founded the World Dance Council (WDC). In 1957, a distinction was made between professional dancers and amateur dancers, and so the International Council of Amateur Dancers (ICAD) was founded. This organization would run all the competitions for amateur dancers, while the WDC would run all professional competitions. In 1990, this organization would be renamed the International DanceSport Federation (IDSF), and in 2011 it would become what we know today as the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF).

These two organizations developed within their own specialities, the WDSF tending only to amateurs, and the WDC only to professionals. This was a mutually beneficial arrangement, and everybody was happy, until…

The Great Schism

On September 4th, 1997, the WDSF (then IDSF) was recognized by the International Olympic Committee, agreeing to drug test their athletes, develop a more objective judging system, and conform to numerous other Olympic regulations. Because of this recognition, if Ballroom Dancing is ever added to the Olympics, only dancers from the WDSF would be allowed to participate.

The WDC was not happy with this, and in 2007 it opened its own amateur league. Since the WDC had all the professionals, it could attract a lot of amateurs to its competitions, and it hoped to drive the WDSF out of business. The WDSF responded in 2010 by opening its own professional division, and now both organizations were fighting for a share of the same pool of dancers.

The Result

Both organizations had such a quarrel with each other that they would often punish dancers for supporting the other organization, much like infuriated divorced parents might use their children to get at each other. Until 2012, for example, WDSF athletes were forbidden from competing in ant WDC competitions. Recently in America, judges of the WDC member organization (the NDCA) are forbidden from judging any of the WDSF member organization's competitions, under threat of having their NDCA judging license revoked. The situation is currently unfavourable to dancers and competitors, but due to the politics discussed herein, the feud may continue for a long time. A lot of people are unhappy with the situation, but few have the power to change any of it.

Another unexpected result has occurred because of this split. The WDSF has developed its own style of dancing. While the WDC remains more conservative, in Standard especially, the WDSF has begun to favor more athletic and extreme performances, and typically dances to slightly faster music. See the difference in styles for yourself: on the left, WDSF Professional Standard World Champions Mirko and Edita, and on the right, WDC Professional Standard World Champions Arunas and Katusha.

While WDSF enthusiasts say this is the evolution of dancing, and note that dancing has been moving in that direction from the beginning, WDC enthusiasts say the WDSF has gone too far and has lost the artistic aspect of dancing in an attempt to make it more of a sport. Yet another thing these two organizations can disagree on!